Residents in Brighton have been asked to ‘think twice’ about lighting wood-burning stoves and other fires during the coronavirus crisis, because the smoke makes respiratory conditions worse.
With the majority of people in the area now entering their third week of coronavirus lockdown, Brighton and Hove City Council has warned that fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emitted by the stoves could put residents who are already at a higher risk from the worst symptoms of coronavirus in a more vulnerable position.
The popularity of stoves over recent years has rocketed and according to the industry body HETAS, the number of registrations increased 10-fold in the decade between 2004 and 2014, from 12,000 to 130,000 a year.
The government’s own statistics show that burning wood and coal in open fires and stoves account for more than a third (38%) of the UK’s primary emissions of PM2.5, compared to industry and road transport, which contribute 16% and 12%, respectively.
Although the spell of warm weather that is set to hit the UK this week could mean that fewer wood-burners are lit, other councils including, Bath and North Somerset, have already issued warnings to residents who might be tempted to burn garden waste outside due to cancelled waste collections.
Since the coronavirus lockdown began two weeks ago there have been large drops in transport-related nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in cities across the UK. However, some areas such as Bromley in London have seen increases in fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which councillors there believe is due to an increase in garden bonfires.
Brighton and Hove Cllr Anne Pissaridou, said: ‘At a time when millions of people are being forced to stay at home, more people than ever are using their gardens for fresh air and exercise.
‘And with the weather starting to improve people with and without gardens are opening their windows to get some welcome fresh air into their homes.
‘I just think that most of our residents would rather not have a bonfire going on near to them in the current situation, and would rather not have to breathe in unnecessary smoke if they don’t have to.
‘We also need to be mindful that coronavirus is a respiratory disease. A lot of people have concerns that the extra smoke generated by wood-burners, log fires and bonfires may be making things worse for people who already have health problems.
‘So during this time of national crisis we’re just saying please think of others and try to avoid making things worse for them.’