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The greatwood burning stovedebate

Why do stoves remain popular with the public when they are a major source of indoor and outdoor air pollution? Pippa Neill investigates.

You’ve just come back from a long walk, the house is cold so you light the fire and sit down with a cup of tea to read your book. To many people, this probably sounds like the perfect way to spend a lockdown afternoon, but in fact, there is something quite sinister going on here.  

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), wood and coal fires are the single biggest source of particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in the UK. Even in London, which has had smokecontrolled areas for more than 60 years, researchers at King’s College London found that wood burning was responsible for between 23 – 31% of all PM2.5 pollution.  

Because of their size – about 30 times smaller in width than that of a human hair – PM2.5 is one of the most dangerous air pollutants when it comes to human health. These tiny pollutants can travel deep into the respiratory tract where they can lead to numerous health problems, from asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia and pregnancy loss.  

Yet despite the carcinogenic properties of these particles, lighting up a wood burning stove or an open fire remains hugely popular, indeed an estimated 175,000 wood burners are sold in the UK every year.  

To get to the crux of why this is the case and in a bid to understand the bigger picture, Air Quality News spoke with Dr. Gary Fuller, an air pollution scientist at Imperial College London, and whose book ‘The Invisible Killer’ addresses this issue in detail.  

‘I think to start with, we need to understand this whole phenomenon, and to do that we need to look not just at the quantitative science, but also at the social and behavioural reasons as to why people are using wood burning stoves and open fires in the first place. 

‘Let’s face it, looking at flames is completely brilliant, it’s wonderfully relaxing and I think many people also believe that it brings them close to nature, but the implications on air pollution are enormous and that cannot be ignored.’  

Firewood stack of chopped wood background

In recent years, the discourse around wood burning stoves has focused on them being a more environmentally-friendly option when it comes to heating your home.  

Indeed, the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA), the industry body representing the wood burning stove industry, have gone so far as to say that burning wood is a ‘carbon neutral heating option.’   

‘I know it’s slightly debatable,’ says Morley Sage, chair of the SIA, ‘but if you use locally sourced wood then you’re almost certainly in a carbon neutral situation.’  

However, this situation is far from clear cut and measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions remains incredibly difficult, as Dr. Fuller explains: ‘When you look at the whole life cycle of burning wood, you’ve got to say what is the counterfactual?  

‘If we compare a scenario where you heat your home with gas and leave the tree in the forest, to one where you chop down a tree and leave the gas unused, then what happens to the CO2? 

‘When you set fire to wood in your fireplace, you’re automatically releasing carbon that has been sequestered for many decades, and it will take the ecosystem a long time to reabsorb that carbon. So, you see, the debate becomes not which one is better, but in which time window are they better.’  

This lack of clear communication goes beyond the CO2 impacts of wood burning stoves, but also extends to their air pollution impact. Later this month, the government will begin to phase out the sale of coal and wet wood, which according to Defra are ‘the two most polluting fuels.’ However, Dr Gary Fuller warns that ‘this is possibly a very contradictory signal’.  

‘You could look at this and say yes, it will help the problem,’ says Dr. Fuller 

‘But then are you saying that it’s completely acceptable to burn dry wood?’  

‘I raise the concern that, in five or 10 years time, will our pollution problem actually worsen because people will see this as a message that they can go out and either open up an old fireplace or buy an old wood burning stove, and as long as they’re burning dry wood, then the industry seems to imply that it’s completely fine.’ 

‘Indeed, research we conducted in London revealed that the extra PM2.5 that was coming from wood burning stoves was seven times greater than the air pollution reduction from the first two phases of the low-emission zones. So, you can see that this mixed messaging runs the risk of undoing much of the work and investment that we’re putting into other areas.’ 

However, as Mr Sage highlights, there is an emissions hierarchy when it comes to the fuels we burn and the stoves we use. 

‘If you look at a new Ecodesign compliant stove it will produce on average 90% less emissions than an open fire, and 80% less emissions than the average 10-yearold stove.’ 

‘Our website highlights the benefits of replacing older stoves and when that isn’t a possibility then we encourage consumers to ensure that they’re burning the right fuel, meaning fuel that is in line with the government’s new law.  

‘The overall message that we’re trying to get across is that it’s all about having the right appliance, the right fuel and then burning it in the right way.’  

However, according to a 2015 government survey, in London, 68% of people who were burning wood in their homes were using open fires, the most polluting of all appliances. The fact is, wood burning stoves and open fires have an extremely long lifespan, upwards of 20 years, and replacing them can be very expensive, a brand new Ecodesign approved stove costs anywhere from £500 – £2,000, without considering installation costs.  

The turnover for solid fuel devices is really, really long,’ adds Dr. Fuller. So people are going to be making substantial investments in stoves and it’s going to be really hard to say that they shouldn’t use them.  

‘Yes, if people were to take their open fire, and replace it with something that’s more modern, it would mean a reduction in emissions. 

‘But even the best stoves still emit air pollution, in their biomass report, the Air Quality Expert Group found that burning wood in an Ecodesign stove was similar to the emissions from six Euro V1 HGVs.  

‘I think it’s important to recognise the benefit of risk reduction, but also to recognise that it’s not the answer.’  

Mr Sage also highlights that there are many other benefits of using wood burning stoves: ‘It’s also a form of heating which assists with fuel poverty, it is not generally bought on credit and it’s an affordable and a local space heater.  

‘There are also many other health benefits, wood burning stoves are a very calming focal point in the home, and at a time when stress and mental health are very important, they can have a positive contribution to that. 

‘They are also good at circulating air in the house, which can also be beneficial for health.’  

But in the midst of a respiratory pandemic, where air pollution has been linked to a greater risk of dying from Covid-19, the question remains, is lighting a fire and contributing to the wider air pollution problem the socially responsible thing to do?  

As Harriet Edwards, senior policy manager at the British Lung Foundation says: ‘We want to encourage people to really question if they need to use a wood burning stove, and if they are using one, then we encourage them to really think about the way they are using them.  

‘But the consumer information is just not out there at the moment and there’s a really big piece of work that needs to be done to change that. I think many people feel duped, they might have felt they were making a more environmentally-friendly choice and now they’re being told otherwise, we need to ensure that the public are given much clearer advice and information, because ultimately, no level of air pollution is safe to breathe in.’   

There is clearly a gap in the information when it comes to wood-burning stoves and, as shown, the debate remains to be very heated, but whether they are contributing to air pollution inside your home or causing an air pollution problem to the wider community, there is clearly a need for clear communication to help raise awareness and highlight the air pollution impacts of these not so idyllic wood-burning stoves. 

 This article first appeared in the Air Quality News magazine, which is available to view here. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bert Gruder
5 months ago

WANT A HEALTHY HOME? For less than seven cents per sq. Ft. You can Eliminate Smoking Odors, Viruses, Pet Odors, and Bacteria. From Your Home, without using electricity, fans, or filters.

Darren Williams
Darren Williams
5 months ago

For most of us, this trend that is inexplicably happening is ruining our lives. Decades ago, gas saved the day after many years of Wood and Coal burning shortening lives (and making them miserable in urban areas in particular). Now, it seems that the government and many members of the public alike think we can just start reinstalling Wood burning appliances as if the Great Smogs of the 50’s never happened. DEFRA have even made the newer types of burner exempt from the Clean Air Act which got rid of such things years ago! Look at the particulate emissions of these and they are little better than the open fires from the distant past; not to mention the hydrocarbons and various carcinogenic compounds that exist in the smoke. The “double burn” on wood stoves only stops the crudest sooty black smoke going up the chimney. The flumes don’t even have particulate traps in this country. My house has been filled with these pollutants most of the winter (due to just 3 or 4 neighbours burning wood… now the government haven’t banned them, this will probably increase). Gas isn’t around forever but it sets the standards for low air pollution. And, if we don’t stop it now, burning wood will cause a huge spike in CO2 levels in the next 50years (and, after that, we should be onto non-combustion methods anyway). And have you noticed how many trees are being chopped down since 5 or 6 years ago? Please sign the petition “Ban wood burning stoves and all solid fuel burning in homes that are on the grid” as the government has just voted to not even set any air quality standards for the UK in this year’s (now delayed) Environmental Bill! This is desperate; another winter like this one will be too much to bear!

A P Mill
A P Mill
5 months ago

We banned smoking in public places because it’s unacceptable to expose people to second hand smoke and yet the government are doing nothing to address the massive increase in the recreational use of wood burners. Since my neighbour got one my house is constantly engulfed in smoke and fumes and even with the windows closed it gets inside my house. How can that be acceptable? The local council are aware of the massive increase in the use of wood burners in our town and there’s been many complaints, but even though we’re in a smoke control area there’s nothing the council can do because people have Defra approved stoves. Nobody needs a wood burner in a centrally heated house in a densely populated area and we should not have to put up with this unnecessary pollution just because it’s the latest fashion.

Wood burner
Wood burner
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Oh please Mr Mill. I presume you drive an electric car, buy organic vegan food from local specialty shops and heat and power your house from solar panels and ground source heat pumps. What a lovely bubble that must be. Meanwhile, the rest of society live in old housing stock, struggle to afford the heating bills and find the solid fuel burner to be a warming lifeline that pumps out DRY, affordable heat that doesn’t worsen the mould caused by environmentalists, like yourself, demanding all houses need to be vacuum sealed, when they were never designed to be. Life is short. Just enjoy it.

A P Mill
A P Mill
5 months ago
Reply to  Wood burner

You’ve missed the part where I say ‘recreational use of wood burners’, as in those who have a wood burner because it looks nice in the lounge, while heating the rest of the house with gas central heating. There’s a growing number of these people in towns and cities all over the country. I don’t think houses should be vacuum sealed, I would like to open my windows and let fresh air in, but since several of my neighbours got wood burners (in addition to also using their central heating) the air around my house stinks of wood smoke.

David Varney
David Varney
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

I could not agree more. My neighbour has just installed one as well, and has built an external chimney breast to house the flue. I complained to the council who checked out the fire, the flue, the wood, but it met all the recent regulations. They weren’t interested in the problems it was causing us, runny eyes, smell of smoke in the house, health issues, ash fall out. It is unbelievable.
These awful fires need banning, full stop!

Shuffler
Shuffler
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Your vehicle running does the same thing. Your sewer does the same thing. Most likely the electricity you use does the same thing to someone somewhere.

Doug
Doug
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

I have one and burn old fence panels, pallets etc, any old rubbish I can get my hands on really. Can’t smell it and neither can my neighbours. I don’t believe you are engulfed in smoke.

Linda
Linda
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug

It’s illegal to burn treated wood. Too many carnicogens released.I hope you’re content with knowing you may be causing cancer in your family and neighbours.

Wynster
Wynster
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Totally agree, I’ve got a plank next door who smokes out the close every day. These people have no respect for anybody else, all they care about is themselves and how cool and trendy they think they are.

Jared Bruso
Jared Bruso
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Sounds like your neighbor has no idea how to operate a woodstove.

Barry
Barry
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Some of us can’t afford to pay for oil or gas and wood is cheapest alternative. No person who relies on wood for heat goes out and chop down a live tree. Wood burns best when it sits dead for 2 or 3 years and when it dries out there hardly any smoke coming out of the chimney. I’m 70 years old, I cut and split all my own wood and if I have to choose between cutting wood, cutting out food or Rxs or freezing to death I’ll keep cutting wood.

Peter Murtagh
Peter Murtagh
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Hello. We have a similar problem in my area, also a smoke controlled area. My local environmental officer even said on a visit I shouldn’t complain, that he liked the smell. And that I had no legal right to be in my garden on a warm summer evening so just go inside and shut the house up .But let me add a few nuances. The Environmental Protection Act covers ‘domestic chimneys’; but an open firepit is not covered. Nor a wood burner in a garden outhouse , now very popular with home working. Therefor a major loopho;e in the law. Further, my local authority are prepared to accept the housholders assurance that the burner conforms with Defra or is exempt, and that it has been installed by a competent person, and that they are burning only authorised fuel. I have documentary proof of this. Therefor we are plagued by several neighbours who have self installed and are burning wood from trees that they have helped themselves to from the local public land. Whole mature trees and young saplings have been chopped down and are being regularly burned with impunity. Thick blue and grey smoke is a regular occurence especiallly at weekends, until 3 am.

LCT
LCT
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

A P mill- couldn’t have put it better myself. My complaints to our council have been dismissed. Flash the defra paperwork, lie a little about what you burn, and even in a Smoke Control Zone you can pollute the whole neigbourhood and inflict misery and bodily harm on your neighbours without any penalty. There is no net benefit to mental health because any pleasure the owners feel is outweighed by the torment and pain caused to their neighbours. All woodburners should be banned in all built up areas, for the sake of the long term health of all of us.

Kyle
Kyle
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Until the power goes out in winter and then everyone who doesn’t have a woodstove will be huddled up in your neighbor’s house

Juled
Juled
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Smoking is not banned in public places but those indoor public places. What organisations do is up to them

Linda
Linda
5 months ago
Reply to  Juled

PM2.5 is far more toxic than cigarette smoke, as it crosses the blood barrier to cause damage over a much longer period. The two cannot be compared .

Katie
Katie
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Erm I have a wood burner and just burn wood on it… There is no smoke coming out of mine and it gets a full service every year… Sounds like your neighbour is just throwing any old crap onto theirs. Don’t tarnish everyone with the same brush, some us are sensible

Loggo
Loggo
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Surely the only reason smoking was banned in public was because of the nicotine? Not a lot of that in a piece of oak.

Linda
Linda
5 months ago
Reply to  Loggo

It’s the PM2.5 that does far more damage than cigarette smoke. Read up on it if you are that uniformed.

Sharon
Sharon
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

I have a multi fuel burner although I tend to use just dry, seasoned wood. I have my chimney swept twice a year and the burner serviced annually to keep it in top condition. I have one because it costs far less to heat my home with it than any of the other forms of heating. I cannot afford to run my central heating for any length of time… 1 or 2 days a week is the most I can switch it on for. Until alternative heating becomes comparable cost wise, I won’t be changing it any time soon.

Mr h
Mr h
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Find that hard to believe bit of an exaggeration

Jonathon Marvin
Jonathon Marvin
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

You are an authoritarian control freak. I’m glad I don’t live next to you.

Jonathon Marvin
Jonathon Marvin
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Ban this ban that ban ban ban… You people are children

Eddy
Eddy
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Wow you seem like such a shity neighbor to live next door to. You believe wood fire stoves in people’s houses are causing mass air pollution when there is zero evidence for that absolutely no evidence. You’re mental, you’ll believe anything.

Linda
Linda
5 months ago
Reply to  Eddy

And you havent read the research so are uninformed.

Jon M Zumhingst
Jon M Zumhingst
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

The answer is the p68 harman pellet stove no smoke and no ash

Eddy
Eddy
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Its not a “recreation” burning firewood to keep your family warm. Buy better windows in your house.. lol

Mark
Mark
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

What let’s stop burn offs to the forrests because the smoke comes our way,let’s stop cars,trucks because of diesel smoke,let’s stop industry because of smoke,the wood stove has been around for years and if you burn dry wood with the burners you have today there is bugger all smoke.

Nemesis
Nemesis
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

And evwrytime you open your mouth out comes carbon dioxide, oh and a lot of methane!!!

A P Mill
A P Mill
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

The fact that someone has voted down my comment above shows the mentality of those who want to believe that burning wood is acceptable and they obviously don’t have the intelligence to offer a reasonable argument. They clearly don’t care about people who live around them, who’s lives are blighted by this unnecessary pollution and they don’t care about the environment, just so long as they can feel smug because they’re keeping up with the latest trends in interior design.

High Plains Drifter
High Plains Drifter
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

AP Mill……. only thing smug is u. My latest trends on interior design doesn’t have access to electricity, water and heat. I live off grid, built all by me. My own water, electricity, solar, propane and wood burning heat. Yes, WOOD burning! My privilege and necessity. If u wanna compare wood burning vs Chinese/ India’s 83% of earths pollution, have at it. Write them an email …..but stay the hell away from people’s way of life and living because it doesn’t agree with you…..

Chris
Chris
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

You’re incorrect you know. You are doing far more harm to the environment using gas central heating than you would be with a wood stove. When a tree grows, it feeds on polluants in the air like co2 and releases back oxygen. When a tree is burned, whether it be in a forest fire or as a source of heat/energy, it will only release what it has previously absorbed, no more or less. So there remains the same balance in the world. The gas used for central heating is a petrochemical, so when you burn it to power your heating or cooking you are actually releasing additional polluants into the air, which contribute to greenhouse gases and global warming. If you can get past the mild inconvenience of sometimes having to smell smoke, and think more about the bigger picture and future generations then I’m sure you would agree that wood is the best solution. And considering wood was our only source of heating for thousands of years before we started mining petrochemicals, might I also suggest that it is gas that is the most recent interior design trend..

Drew
Drew
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

I live in a rural setting with no option thou i might agree with some of the points raise i am guessing you live in an area with public transportation but chose not to use it. If they want to ban them in towns and cities all factors should be considered

Ashley Reece
Ashley Reece
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

What about aeroplanes shall we ground them as well. What about the H2 train, how many tree, people home’s and wildlife are we damaging.

As far as I understand new wood burner is fine it’s just the older ones and open fire’s.

Amy Van Zandt
Amy Van Zandt
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

If someone wants to make people out to horrible for trying to stay warm or cool their food it’s absolutely unacceptable to attack people who maybe can’t afford heating fuel but then again that’s wrong also right it won’t matter someone will always find away to bitch and try to take away others freedoms. I cook with wood and heat with wood and wood pellets . If the wood is dry it does not put anymore out in the air than a lot if items I could tell you not to use. I think before you go complaining are you willing to pay their heating bills? Or look at how you live that would point to the fact you pollute as well. I’m fed up with people telling others how to live look at yourself first.

A P Mill
A P Mill
5 months ago
Reply to  Amy Van Zandt

If my neighbours can afford to pay thousands of pounds for a Defra approved stove plus maintenance costs plus kiln dried wood then they can afford to pay their own heating bills. There are more wood burners in the wealthier part of this town than there are in the poorer parts. I know for some people it’s about having an affordable way to heat their home, but for a lot of people it’s just a lifestyle choice, that is why I referred to the recreational use of wood burners in my post.

Nigel Barlow
Nigel Barlow
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Now there I completely agree. The wood burner has become a fashion accessory and a lifestyle statement. That’s sad, and hopefully, as with all fashion, the trend will go elsewhere. I developed a taste for burning wood in the early 1980s, when a group of us rented a farmhouse. The farmer provided free wood and in return we split it and kept 1/3 of what we split. So we became very fit and did a lot of splitting. It was a very practical way to keep warm. And I still do, it’s remarkably easy to source bits of trees for a very notional cost from local tree surgeons. From an environmental point of view, this wood has done almost no tree miles and is seasoned naturally. Compare that with the kiln dried stuff, where the energy used to dry the stuff is large (it is typically held at 80C for a week or so), and companies like CPL distribution (aka Homefire) operate a national network.

So it is a lifestyle statement, but I would prefer to be taken for a hillbilly rather than a trendy.

J Smith
J Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Those of us who live in rural areas and don’t want to live in the vile, bland, lost globalist towns and “smart” cities plugged into someone else’s grid, will continue to use them. The “green” technologies that take hundreds of thousands of tons of rare Earth metals out of the planet every single year, and have a finite supply, aren’t green at all, it’s the emperor’s new clothes, as is the drivel in this “article”.
Get China to stop pumping billions of tonnes of nasty stuff into the air every year before worrying about this. This is just a deliberate attack on people using the natural environment around us and forcing us to use some “smart” tech that we don’t need whilst someone else makes money on it.

Rosy Curtis
Rosy Curtis
3 months ago
Reply to  J Smith

WELL SAID.

martin rollinson
martin rollinson
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

Hi just as there are good and bad car drivers there are good and bad stove operators . Operating them correctly with appropriately seasoned timber should produce little to no smoke after the initial lighting and the flue is warm. I have central heating but choose not to use it. Had I ever received a complaint I would strongly consider not using it.
One neighbour only has commented negatively on this matter and coincidentally the same neighbour has commented negatively on a myriad of issues so I pay little attention to it. Oh and I don’t consider myself in fashion as a result of owning and using my multi fuel stove.

James Talbot
James Talbot
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

I would disagree, if you burn dry wood on an efficient stove is that not better than a Gas boiler emissions ? and how many houses have them ?

A P Mill
A P Mill
5 months ago
Reply to  James Talbot

Sadly everyone I know who’s had a wood burner installed in the last few years have not replaced their gas boiler, the wood burner is just an aesthetic addition, so it is additional pollution. They’ve become fashionable in towns and cities. I live in a large town and I’m not aware of even one road near me where there’s no wood burners. The air is quite bad in the evening and I have to wear a pollution mask to go outside.

Chris Hutton
Chris Hutton
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

I take wood to my daughters when I babysit my grandchildren.
1. we turn the gas boiler off.
2. I source the wood from house and shop improvements. So it’s dry.
3. The gas we don’t use was sequestered in the Carboniferous period, and releasing it today has a far greater affect than burning wood, where the carbon has only been locked up for a few decades.
4. The article bemoans the lack of information but doesn’t supply any.

A P Mill
A P Mill
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Hutton

In my town people use their wood burners well into the summer, on warmer days one neighbour opens every window in the house so they don’t get too warm with their wood burner lit. It’s nothing to do with heating the house, it’s a decorative feature (look at any interiors magazine). People in towns and cities don’t source wood locally, they buy kiln dried wood which has only been sold in the large supermarkets locally in the last year or so, due to the sudden high demand. The air is thick with smoke and fumes due to the large number of wood burners in the area, you can’t open the windows or walk outside. For people in towns and cities, having a wood burner is about keeping up with the latest trends. No distinction is being made between these people and those who live in rural areas where there’s no other form of heating. This is why there’s so much negative press about wood burners lately.

Linda
Linda
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

I think you live near me! Woodburners are owned by pretentious, selfish and ignorant town and city dwellers.

Richard Ward
Richard Ward
5 months ago
Reply to  A P Mill

I have removed gas from my house, installed pv panels and a woodburner so I don’t use any fossil fuels, I also smell gas boilers pumping out toxic fumes from my neighbours, but choose to be carbon fossil fuel free , I also only burn wood at 25% or less moisture, you can only do what you can do

Mike Barrett
5 months ago

I am a stove industry expert and I want to put this issue of burning wood in context. Wood burning stoves are not dangerous if used correctly. Firstly the only danger is opening the DEFRA exempt stove to refuel. I advise customers to use good quality kindling, and get the stove up to the optimum temperature, before putting in a log. Then to only use kiln dried wood. When opening to stove to refuel, (in other words to put a log on the fire) they should open the stove door a fraction this allows a balance of air pressure, then after a few seconds to fully open the door and put the log in and close the door. PM 2.5 is a microscopic killer but using a new stove is 99% safer than using an open fire.

The chances are you are more likely to be killed in a car crash, than you are to be killed by using a wood burning stove. The pollution caused is greatly reduced when using a DEFRA exempt stove, using kiln dried wood and only burning the wood once the stove is up to temperature. We all breath the same air so I believe this argument to be true, the electricity used to charge your mobile, power your TV, and boil your kettle etc, isn’t magic, it’s more than likely been provided by a dirty coal fired power station, are we going to ban the use of electricity too?

J pea
J pea
5 months ago

We have been using an open fire in our rented property because the storage heaters that we have are expensive and awful when it comes to heating the house. Having the fire on in the living room means we aren’t freezing all the time. We have some oil filled radiators but they’re not great. If we had central heating we definitely wouldn’t be using a fire much, If at all. I don’t know why anyone thought storage heaters were a good idea…

Nigel Barlow
Nigel Barlow
5 months ago

The issue of wood burning is complicated. We have one and love it to bits, and I hope we are responsible. We are lucky enough to have space to store and season our own wood, and I check moisture content with a meter.

Part of the issue is that some people put any old rubbish, not just wet wood but also treated and painted wood, in their stoves. It’s tempting, but the temptation should be resisted.

Also, we light our stoves in cold weather in the evening when everybody’s doors and windows are shut. If you are looking at wood burning stoves, you should also look at BBQs, fire pits and such, which are used in the summer when everybody’s doors and windows are open. Indeed some friends of ours, who have now moved, were forced to decide whether to have a house uncomfortably hot or open the windows and let all the fumes from their neighbours BBQ, used several times a week, into the house. They lived in a terraced house with a small back garden, and were otherwise on very good terms with their neighbours.

Jim bob
Jim bob
5 months ago

More pm2.5 is released from toasters inside the home than any stove, are we banning toast next?

Matt
Matt
5 months ago

Seriously major source of pollution?

Kim Smith
Kim Smith
5 months ago

How can something be thirty times smaller than something else?
Once smaller, if such a measurement exists, must mean that it has zero size.

Do you mean “it is one thirtieth the size”?

How can one be expected to believe anything else in your article?

Jared Bruso
Jared Bruso
5 months ago

Instead of chastising the public who do use it, educate them on how to properly use a wood burner. I’m sorry but humans have evolved with fire. We are who we are because of it. There are a multitude of reasons someone has poor health. Pointing to one thing and blaming it for health issues is absurd. People will always burn with wood because its a part of who we are. We have a bond to it that will never be broken. Put down the sugar if you truly care about health.

John Turner
John Turner
5 months ago

I have a wood burning stove and burn dry locally sourced wood in a rural environment. I recently purchased a meter to measure pm 10 and 2.5. inside the lounge near to the stove and reading were very low and we’ll within safe levels.

Shaun Wareham
Shaun Wareham
5 months ago

What a load of old rubbish wood burning stoves are basically used 3 to 4 months in the year.and if used right hardly give off any smoke at all. I know, i have one. I think most moaners are jealous of free heating by burning wood. Lot of other uses want sorting thats in constant use

Jules
Jules
5 months ago

Ban the sale of firewood in greater London otherwise shut up.

Sheriff woody
Sheriff woody
5 months ago

Will be using mines as wood is free and it’s saving me plenty of money, Energy suppliers
Keep putting prices up.. Only thing that I’m interested in is keeping my family warm ( no fumes in my house that’s a myth)

Daniel Jeff Dawson
Daniel Jeff Dawson
5 months ago

And it gets worse. When liberals regulate gas and oil so much and so long that ordinary people can’t afford it, they’re going to change to Wood or anything else they can burn to keep warm and cook. Remember these words when you wake up and all your Landscaping has been torn up for the crowd to burn and I did.

Alan Jones
Alan Jones
5 months ago

I’ve been involved with energy for 40 years. Burning wood is madness. Wood should capture CO2 and stay that way, not release it again.
Wood houses, furniture, etc. Lock up CO2

Joseph whiton
Joseph whiton
5 months ago
Reply to  Alan Jones

What should capture the co2 would be trees yes, but if they keep clearing them all to build houses like the current trend them what would you propose?

John Rowe
John Rowe
5 months ago

Perhaps one solution here would be to mandate some form of flue gas treatment technology, such as an electrostatic precipitator or a bag filter? These are mandatory in large combustion plant using solid fuels and work to good effect. After a quick Web search I find that both are available in the marketplace. If this was to be mandated then costs would fall.

Joseph whiton
Joseph whiton
5 months ago
Reply to  John Rowe

It’s called a catalyst on the stove. Been around for ages. And when run correctly it gets hot and you can not see any smoke coming from the chimney.

Dick
Dick
5 months ago

Wholly gaslighting!

Ian
Ian
5 months ago

I would like to point out that in the article it says that it is better to leave a tree than to chop it down and burn it and produce co2 and dangerous particulate pollution.i totally agree but also burning gas also produces co2 that has been locked away for thousands of years far longer than any tree.I have a wood burner and I can assure you that trees are only felled for timber or because they are a danger to the public from falling over due to bad footing or rot.all of the wood that I burn is from what cannot be used as timber and is well seasoned (dry).There are laws that protect trees from being felled for firewood and rightly so.Jumping on the individual to change their ways is easy,taking on the industry giants who remain by far the biggest polluters is more difficult and that is where the focus should be

Chris Causey
Chris Causey
5 months ago

I’ll give you coal but the argument against burning wood doesn’t hold up. A tree doesn’t release any more polluants than it captures during it’s lifetime. If we had only ever used wood as a source of heat, instead of switching to gas central heating, there would have never been any more co2 released into the atmosphere than was already there. What the planet needs is for more people to go back to wood as a source of energy as it is the most renewable heating source that exists.

IJG
IJG
5 months ago

Can you shed some light on the effect of burning different sorts of ‘logs’ in the wood-burning stove please. What about coffee logs or locally-sourced sawdust briquettes for example?

Craig Nattress
Craig Nattress
5 months ago
Reply to  IJG

That’s what I’d like to know more about, I buy compacted sawdust briquettes as they don’t have any moisture content, so I’m led to believe they are better on PM’s. Can anyone confirm?

Elizabeth Bingley
Elizabeth Bingley
5 months ago

In rural areas and places where electricity and gas are unreliable in winter, wood is necessary for survival. Where I live, it is so cold in winter heat is absolutely necessary and snow makes gas delivery impossible while electricity is just as unreliable with 2 week outages being a fact of life. Moving is economically impossible.
The new technology with secondary combustion mechanisms makes wood a lot better than it used to be and for people with lung sensitivity like my aunt, keeping the dust cleaned daily makes her life easier in winter with wood because the heat is “dry”. This is not such a simple cut and dry issue for many people, pun intended. Until we can provide for rural and rural impoverished communities. This cannot be a productive discussion outside more urban areas.

R smith
R smith
5 months ago

If i want to have a wood burner I will. Im not a townie, i live in the countryside, electricity is not a guarantee to run other heating options. So to heat my home in the depths of winter i burn wood sourced from my land and seasoned. This has been the way for many years our wood burner is over 35 years old.

Stoptoxicairpolluters
Stoptoxicairpolluters
3 months ago
Reply to  R smith

False and self imposed god of your own corrupt world-utterly selfish and indefensible.

Misel
Misel
5 months ago

Nuclear power diesel motors and u speak about wood burning. How stupid u all can be

Mat Jaggard
Mat Jaggard
5 months ago

All the information and discussion is around people living in London. I can find very little in the way of research into how far the particulates travel. I live in a village and the prevailing wind travels a number of miles over flood plain. Is my wood burning stove really having any significant impact on others or not? I already understand the internal impact and so we rarely open the door to the stove and then add plenty of wood at a time.

D Mckay
D Mckay
5 months ago

Because they are inexpensive to operate, with electric heat running 500$ for two months, what do you expect

Dan
Dan
5 months ago

Another angle on this is that the fuel companies stand to lose income and the government revenue if significant numbers of people start to use wood for their home heating. Wood is generally free and much cheaper than electricity gas or oil. It is therefore in the interests of government and suppliers to protect their profits by making the argument that burning wood is evil.
In the USA some states have made going off-grid illegal, not because of environmental concerns but to ensure that there is no loss of revenue.
This official demonisation of the woodburner is part of the plan to maintain the status quo., in many cases buying off experts to push their agenda. The privatised fuel industry has got a lot to answer for in its obscenely excessive prices which cause fuel poverty and the necessity for people to seek alternative ways of heating. They shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways.

Chris
Chris
5 months ago
Reply to  Dan

You’re completely right. It’s propaganda from the fuel industry. Wood is the cleanest and most renewable energy source that exists, and you can provide it for yourself of your own land or locally sourced, and the big oil companies hate that! I just can’t believe how many people buy the lie. This website comes out with so much unscientific nonsense sometimes I can’t help but think it’s an arm of the oil lobbying industry.

John
John
5 months ago

Also remember where there still is no 3G phone signal nor any form of fibre Internet another matter all to its self, wood is the only source of heat and hot water for houses.

Bob
Bob
5 months ago

This is ridiculously misleading.

Tom D
Tom D
5 months ago

This phenomenon is so sad and depressing. This is exactly like smoking in public places, however, in this case, we have no other option than breathing in the highly toxic air WHILE AT HOME. This is the unfair part. Even if there is just a single irresponsible person burning wood in the area, it is still killing us all, slowly but surely.

Rich
Rich
5 months ago
Reply to  Tom D

Gas, still gives off dangerous fumes and is a fossil fuel which should be banned first, wood is a renewable source, that can be used in a self sufficient way, fuel companies are against public usage but electricity still use it or coal

Stoptoxicairpolluters
Stoptoxicairpolluters
3 months ago
Reply to  Rich

Whitewashing

Richard Ward
Richard Ward
5 months ago
Reply to  Tom D

Gas boilers , cars, planes, nd coal power stations are killing the planet

Linda
Linda
5 months ago

The numbers speak for themselves: the air has become hazardous around us and it keeps exceeding safe levels every single day during the winter. We can blame China or other third parties,but it would be more helpful to take action instead. If we sign contracts with companies who provide us with 100% renewable energy, we can all win and our children can have a better future, with fewer cases of asthma and cancer. Please please consider this when deciding how to heat your homes.

Lynda
Lynda
5 months ago

These people complaining are usually the ones who walk out there door an get in a car proberly 4 wheel drive.jet off on holidays all over the world.just like attenborough.how much pullution as he contributed.the rich and famous.hypocrites the lot of them.shipping food from one end of the world to another.shipping shoddy goods from china because the rich just want that extra money.get your own house in order before taking enjoyment from ordinary working people.why not start with the royal family because old charlie boy doesn’t need a house that size.stop keep nit picking at people who just want to have a peaceful life.hypicrites the lot of you

Rosy Curtis
Rosy Curtis
3 months ago
Reply to  Lynda

ABSOLUTELY you nailed the argument. Thank you.

Chris
Chris
5 months ago

My last comment didnt work so here we go again. The argument against burning wood doesn’t hold up. A tree doesn’t release any more polluants than it captures during it’s lifetime. If we had only ever used wood as a source of heat, instead of switching to gas central heating, there would have never been any more co2 released into the atmosphere than was already there previously. What the planet needs is for more people to go back to wood as a source of energy as it is the most renewable heating source that exists. When you use gas central heating you’re burning petrochemicals. Have none of the people commenting on here seen the fumes that come from gas boilers? Try breathing that in for a minute and then say that wood smoke is bad. Not to mention it isn’t renewable. And as for calling wood stoves a “trend”, think about this. Wood has been used for heating for thousands of years, wheras your gas central heating isn’t even a century old, who is really following “trends” here? You’re just contributing to the problem of lining the pockets of oil, gas and mining companies, and destroying the environment while you do it.

Joe
Joe
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris

You’ve completely ignored the PM2.5 argument. I have 2 children. It’s horrifying to think I’m powerless to stop the guy in my road who burns all manner of rubbish, both in his woodburner & his garden poisoning me & them. If we get cancer in the future, who is to blame? Co2 is not the issue here. If you bury trees for a few thousand years it will turn to coal, does that make burning coal ok?

Carl
5 months ago

These dumb asses will spew all kinds of vial to try to get everyone to believe this climate change. I want to know where is it written or told that this earth went through an ice age and started to warm and there is no science that is truthful by man or woman that the ice would be around for ever QUIT trying to play GOD you are stupid if you believe this bull shit . Wake up world they just want power and money

Andrew Wasowski
5 months ago
Reply to  Carl

(A) Personally l don’t think there is a God…. not as we Imagine him.
(B) Climate Change is Real, Scientifically Proven Yes the Earth has been through Numerous Climate Changes, Ice Ages and Temperate Tempetures recorded at the North and South Poles, all natural Occurances……. But Human Activity, Interaction and Exploitation of like for Instance, the Amazon Forest now a Cause of Great Concern to all Conservationists. Ask David Attenborough. one of the most influential and Smartest men on this Planet
(3) Don’t Bury your Head in the Sand, the Danger is real and it is Knocking on our Door now, Get this Wrong and what will Future Generations think of us…… Or Don’t You Care, If you do have a Wood Burning like l once did. Do Yourself and Future Generations a Favor, Sling it, And if you’re a Member of the Flat Earth Society then you are also wasting your time……it’s Round, also scientifically Proven.

Stoptoxicairpolluters
Stoptoxicairpolluters
3 months ago

There is a true and living God who intends to intervene and remove all those who ruin the earrh and make the lives of innocent people and animals an absolute misery.

Nick
Nick
5 months ago

Clearly this is an area of concern – just a few thoughts as someone who is both active on climate change and loves my woodburner:

– any discussion of home heating needs to start and finish with the importance of improving insulation and draft proofing, which is far and away the best thing for the climate and thermal comfort.
– the gas / tree comparison point above is not correct – wood that is not burnt and decomposes is very likely to release some or even most of its carbon (its complicated) whereas gas that is not burnt and is left in the ground will not release any. That is before we get on to the destructive lobbying power of the fossil fuel industry which has delayed and slowed action on climate change over decades.
– like most home heating options, there is a lot of scope for better or worse use. We use our stove at times in the week as an alternative to our central heating, directly cutting gas use, not as a supplement. We use a moisture meter to check wood is properly dry.
– the recent Guardian coverage of research on internal air pollution from stoves (I read the original) basically correlates with opening the stove door; in my experience depending on whether you crack it first to equalise the pressure makes a huge difference as to risk of smoke coming out – there was no discussion of this in the research, and could be an area for more scrutiny (or technical fixes). For the avoidance of doubt on this point, I do also appreciate that much pollution is not visible.
– from the article, and comments, external air pollution from stoves is a problem, We need to take that seriously, while not excusing traffic pollution. (On an anecdotal level, my partner who has long term sinus problems has no correlation of symptoms with our stove use or evenings when you can smell wood smoke outdoors, but 5 minutes in bad traffic and is in pain).
– the heat efficiency of a modern stove over an open fire is huge (open chimneys are also an insulation disaster), as well as a cleaner burn
– on the basis of the evidence of air pollution problems, I can see we should not be actively promoting wood burning as a climate solution; however, I’m not persuaded that wood burning is bad in climate terms, nor that the air pollution problem is so acute (especially relative to traffic, volatile paint and other household chemicals etc) that we should ban it. However, as well as the steps on coal and wet wood, it sounds like there is a strong case for banning open fires, and perhaps completely banning wood burning in larger urban areas, on the basis of air pollution.

Veronica Healy
Veronica Healy
5 months ago

Personality if I didn’t have my log burning stove I would freeze to death. Much prefer wood, and coal , to central heating, be it electric, or gas , they are very drying these also create coughs and colds. Speaking of coal, and wood being carcinogenic, read up on how Rock wool and fibre glass are made and what they are made from .both these products are carcinogenic made from stone in quarries, with slag from coal and fibreglass these are present in lots of buildings. Coal,wood, mother nature produced in the ground by way of nature .another culprit to our environment land fill
Leaveourlog burners alone, they are an income for some people as are wood and coal merchants.

Pattherealist
Pattherealist
5 months ago

There are 20 times the population of people on the planet as there were as you say “1000s of years ago.” If you want to live as we did back then , you must stop having babies. Our numbers is what causing the enviornmental problems. Almost 8 billion people along with the lifestyles we demand is wrecking the enviornment. Stop reproducing or at least slow it down for 200 years. End of problem!!

John Heppell
John Heppell
5 months ago

The Government imports wood to make our electricity. Leave our heaters alone.

Joseph whiton
Joseph whiton
5 months ago

If you guys could reasonably point out that all wood stoves are not to blame. For example, many stoves do make thick visible smoke, and yes this is a hazard to breathe, but many modern stoves burn so clean that there is no visible pm and nonetheless if you breathe the exhaust it almost has no smoke odor and will not burn your eyes. This is achieved by not dampering down the burn. Wood is a carbon neutral fuel that can be used cleanly, if it was accurately reported on and not bashed by environmental crazy people who don’t understand the benefit of work aka processing the firewood in the first place.

Rory Niles
Rory Niles
5 months ago
Reply to  Joseph whiton

In the article it says
‘But even the best stoves still emit air pollution, in their biomass report, the Air Quality Expert Group found that burning wood in an Ecodesign stove was similar to the emissions from six Euro V1 HGVs.’
And actually those stoves reduce their particulate output by recirculating the hot gases – giving more time to burn the particles.

Theo
Theo
5 months ago

The article mentions concern about opening up an old fireplace and using an old wood burning stoves. But, there are regulations in place so a fireplace must be properly fitted out and certificated and the law prohibits using old wood burning stoves.

Peter Wadhams
Peter Wadhams
5 months ago

Wood burning clearly generates passions such that only a small minority of your correspondents seem capable of thinking clearly. The main argument against wood burning stoves is that they generate large quanitities of small-size particulates which reach the lungs and cause terrible diseases. Particulates are the reason why diesel cars are forbidden in many cities (e.g. most large Italian cities). As one of your correspondents rightly says, a wood-burning enthusiast in a closely knit area, like a Victorian urban street, is poisoning his helpless neighbours just as surely as if he went around blowing tobacco smoke into his neighbours’ letterboxes. It has to stop. We do need to recognise people’s passions, which are in a way like the passion for having an Aga, something which I personally do not understand and which is only found in England.
Prof Peter Wadhams, Univ Cambridge

Marc Lang
Marc Lang
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter Wadhams

What utter nonsense. Here in France most homes are heated using wood as they are across most of Europe. I only hope you don’t drive a car.

Peter moffat
Peter moffat
5 months ago

I live in a terrace house that was built about four hundred year’s ago of local quarry stone the stone is bare there is no insulation anywhere but the loft and that I suspect is below standard, there is no gas in this village so if you want to heat your home there is a choice of multi fuel stove or electric , I have electric storage heaters and radiators but these walls are like a heat sink and the electric too expensive, the only thing that makes this house bearable is our stove, you may ask why the house has not been insulated the answer it’s a private let ,our landlady is not averse to us applying for a grant and we have applied but been turned down even though we are both over seventy and on benefits, it’s something to do we are told because we are in a terrace , so to cut to the chase please don’t take away our stoves before you replace them with an equally economic system

Resident Seeking right to clean air
Resident Seeking right to clean air
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter moffat

Poisoning the air with wood burners or coal is indefensible and utterly selfish

Phil
Phil
5 months ago

How does this study on PM2.5 differentiate and quantify difference in contribution between particles produced by garden fires that send up billowing smoke and wood stoves that burn dirty for 20 mins until up to temp and produce little pollutants thereafter?

Steve
Steve
5 months ago

I can totally understand ‘everyone’s’ views on this subject. People are passionate about the environment and health.
Leeds (my city) has scrapped it’s planned clean air charge. During this Pandemic pollution levels dropped drastically. Recognising that this was mainly due to less traffic on the road, they are now persuing a traffic management/ reduction strategy for the city. Log Burners are the least of our worries.

Paul Onions
Paul Onions
5 months ago

Humans have been burning wood ever since they discovered how to make a fire. To say now that it will kill us is ludicrous. I get heartily sick of people banging on about pollution. Without offering alternate ways to stay warm and cook. Most people cannot afford to replace their gas boiler and cookers or wood burners.

Marc Lang
Marc Lang
5 months ago

The very first paragraph of this propaganda piece, is a lie. Wood burners are NOT a major source of indoor and outdoor pollution. I have an air particulate cert with mine to prove it is so. What IS a major source of pollution is John Kerry’s private jet that he went to Iceland on, to pick up a climate award.

Junie
5 months ago

Great tips! I’m still figuring out this whole thing. But it helps a lot.

Drake
5 months ago

Thanks for sharing these car mainteneace guide ! I’m always interested in learning more about this.

Robert mij
Robert mij
4 months ago

What’s worse for the environment Methane or c02. I’m sure I once read that a tree left to rot and die would release methane instead of c02. And I was pretty sure methane is 20 times worse for global warming contributions as that’s also why the green group want sustainable farming with the methane levels found in agriculture.

Homeia
4 months ago

Thanks for great tips! however, the recent Guardian coverage of research on internal air pollution from stoves basically correlates with opening the stove door; in my experience depending on whether you crack it first to equalize the pressure makes a huge difference as to risk of smoke coming out.