NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Englanders have been burning wood for centuries.

However, things have changed since colonial times, Connecticut residents now live much, much closer together.

“Think of your beach communities in Connecticut, how very close those houses are often,” said Nancy Alderman.

Nancy Alderman is a member of Environment & Human Health Inc. in North Haven. It’s a group of physicians and public health workers in Connecticut.

They are striving to create awareness of what is being labeled, the “new secondhand smoke” – wood burning smoke.

“One of the reasons it’s a problem is the particulates in wood smoke are so small,” said Alderman.

Smoke she says can travel for half a mile, floating into backyards and impacting thousands across the state.

Fire pits and outdoor wood furnaces are gaining in popularity, and according to Alderman, regulations aren’t keeping up.

She compares the health hazards with that of cigarette smoking.

“Many cigarette smokers do come down with lung cancer. Wood smoke has those same components, people need to at least be aware of it,” said Alderman.

More and more Americans are using wood as their main heating source, especially in the Northeast.

According to the last U.S census, New England states saw at least a 50 percent jump from 2005 to 2012 in the number of households that rely on wood as the main heating source.

More wood burning, means more smoke and according to Alderman, more health risks.