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The public are unaware of the health impacts of indoor fires

Almost half of stove and open fire users are unaware of the air pollution impacts, a new survey has revealed. 

Open fires and wood-burning stoves are often viewed as an aesthetic addition to a house, however, in reality, the use of these fires is having a dangerous impact on air pollution. 

When wood is burned it releases harmful pollutants, including particulate matter (PM2.5). Exposure to PM2.5 can have a significant impact on public health and has been linked to many health implications, including heart disease, strokes and cancer. 

As part of the Burn Better campaign, which is supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), researchers at Censuswide carried out a survey on over 2,000 stove users.

The survey revealed that while 40% of Brits think they will use their open fires or stoves more this winter, 49% of these respondents were completely unaware of the health impacts of doing so. 

The research also revealed that 25% of people are still burning traditional house coal, one of the most polluting sources of fuel.

According to previous research conducted by Defra, almost two-fifths (38%) of PM2.5 in the UK comes from domestic wood-burners and open fires – therefore there is an urgent need to raise awareness of the dangerous impact that using these solid fuels for aesthetic purposes is having on our health.

Bruce Allen, CEO at the Heating Equipment Testing and Approvals Scheme (HETAS) said: ‘It’s worrying to see many people are burning materials that are harmful to air quality in the UK and are unaware of the negative impact burning the wrong type of fuels can have on their health.

‘With people due to spend more time in their homes this winter, I would urge everyone with an open fire or stove to consider improving burning habits by reassessing the types of fuels used.’

In related news, late last year Air Quality News investigated the impact that wood-burning stoves are having on indoor air pollution. 

The research revealed that when using a wood-burning stove, the average PM2.5 level across 24 hours was 72.9 ?g/m3, a level which is regarded as ‘unhealthy to all’, meaning that all those in the area are likely to be affected.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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A P Mill
A P Mill
10 months ago

Many people believe their wood burner is environmentally friendly because it is a Defra approved stove and they’re burning smokeless fuel, but I know from experience how polluting they are and the impact this largely unnecessary pollution has on neighbours. Why is the desire to sit in front of a roaring fire more important than health of neighbours?

Geraldine Morris-Dowling
Geraldine Morris-Dowling
10 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Exactly. Get an electric ‘optimist’ fire that is so So realistic if you want a Flaming smoking fire. Much cleaner no wood to buy. It’s a fashion item.

Is it just me?
Is it just me?
10 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

@AP Mill. Can I ask how you ‘know’? Have you a reliable air quality meter installed in the proximity of the stoves you mention (but don’t say where they are)? Have you run empirical, scientifically validated tests on such newer stoves running with all manner of cleaner fuels and compared those results when they active v.s inactive (factoring in other events such as local fluctuating traffic conditions etc)? One of the aspects of society many of us find irksome these days are minority interest ‘pressure’ groups who seem to proffer 90% raucous (unsubstantiated) opinion, and 10% scientific well reasoned study. In addition to the science, there are plenty of ways to substantially lower PM2.5 via the type of stove, the frequency and thoroughness of cleaning, the burn temperature and duration of firing and the material burned. Below is an excellent link to a Which report on the subject:
https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/wood-burning-stoves/article/wood-burning-stoves-what-you-need-to-know/stoves-and-pollution-aIPXC8g7lbu5

A P Mill
A P Mill
10 months ago
Reply to  Is it just me?

A close neighbour had a wood burner installed just over a year ago. The local council have visited them and confirmed it is a Defra approved stove and they are burning authorised fuel (we’re in a smoke control area). The impact of this stove has been significant. My health has suffered quite badly as a result, my GP had to refer me to a respiratory consultant, I can no longer open the windows or spend any time outdoors, I had to block my chimney as the fumes were coming into my home. My local council have confirmed that there’s been a large increase in the number of wood burners in our town and also many complaints from neighbours who are being impacted by them. Why does anyone need to use a wood burner in a centrally heated home in a densely populated area?

Geraldine Morris-Dowling
Geraldine Morris-Dowling
10 months ago

FINALLY someone is highlighting this. Try living next door to one : even a defra approved stove smokes. We live in a smoke clear city ; it’s permitted development. It smokes day and night – and that comes into our house. We have bought air filters and ionisers . But a month ago my chronically ill (shielded) husband was admitted to hospital with a chest infection. I see this as an affront to my human right to clean air. My neighbour sees it as a fashion item in their Recently open planned cold house.

Mac
Mac
10 months ago

They are clearly burning incorrect fuel. A modern DEFRA approved appliance should not smoke (except for possibly initial lightup) during the burn process. If you see smoke coming out of the chimney, their fuel is contaminated, either with too much moisture or worse!

Judith M Oakley
Judith M Oakley
8 months ago

I do understand how open fires and stoves can cause pollution but I still think it is very necessary to have this source of heating if required. How do you keep warm when there is a power cut? My husband is disabled and has limited mobility so cannot (easily) move around so we need an alternative heating source. When I was young our only source of heating was open fires, burning coal and wood. My dad lived to be 81 and my mother 93 – perhaps that was due to the fact that the only room heated was the one we lived in and not the whole house, iced windows etc were the norm!. Perhaps solar panels/wind turbines offer the choice of your own electricity supply if you can afford them!?