With much of the world becoming cooler as we gear up for winter, we feel it’s important to reshare some news from a study carried out in 2021. The study focused on the air pollution implications of wood burners and found that wood burners are accountable for nearly half of the urban air pollution cancer risk.
This means that wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are potentially more harmful than diesel and petrol emissions from vehicles - emissions often considered the most significant contributor to air pollution. What makes wood burner smoke so dangerous are the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are carcinogenic and found within the smoke.
Although the study was conducted in Greece, the findings can apply to many cities. For example, further research previously found that wood-burning homes were the single biggest source of small particle pollution in the U.K. This fact is even more worrying when we consider that only 8% of the U.K’s population uses wood burners!
Although more eco-friendly wood burners are available now, even these are extremely polluting. A single ‘ecodesign’ wood burner still emits vastly more particle pollution than a heavy goods truck. How much more, you might ask? 750 times more. This means that one ‘ecodesign’ wood burner emits as many small particles as 750 (heavy) trucks!
While the researchers studied the impact of wood burner-emitted pollution outdoors, it’s also important to remember that this pollution can make it indoors. If you have open windows or doors, outdoor air pollution can easily make it inside. Further, if you have a wood burner yourself, particles are likely to escape whenever you stoke the fire.
So, can we protect ourselves? Yes! Due to the impact of wood burners, air pollution is at its worst in many cities during winter. Suppose you live in a residential area where wood burners are used (even if by 10% or less of people) consider wearing a mask when going outside. A well-fitted high-performance mask will protect against even ultra-fine smoke particles.
To minimise the effects of wood burner pollution inside, consider not using a wood burner whenever possible. Further, try to minimise outdoor air entering your home when neighbourly wood burners are in use. While this can lead to a build-up of carbon dioxide concentrations, it’s better to keep wood smoke out. Further, consider investing in an air purifier as these are the best ways to clean indoor air when ventilation isn’t an option.
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