This depends on the type of chimney that you have. If you have a wood-burning chimney, then the smoke is hazardous as is any type of wood smoke: http://www.epa.gov/Woodstoves/healtheffects.html. The EPA has also approved a number of wood stoves and wood burning inserts for more efficient and less polluting chimneys: http://www.epa.gov/Woodstoves/efficiently.html. Another alternative is gas burning fireplaces, which eliminates the need to burn wood. The concern over gas fireplaces has been over the vented vs. ventless. Consumer Reports released a study which says with the installation of a vented gas fireplace, the health effects are minimal: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/appliances/heating-cooling-and-air/fireplaces-gas/gas-fireplaces-306/.
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