Using a single outdoor gas heater for five hours a day every day produces the same amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution as that produced by a typical gas-heated home in a year, according to new research published by Future Climate for Environmental Defense Fund Europe.
After road transport, heating and powering homes and businesses with gas is the second-largest source of NOx pollution in London.
Yet a gas-heated home disperses this pollution outside, away from inhabitants.
In comparison, outdoor gas heaters emit pollution directly into the surrounding space and air that customers and workers breathe.
If a beer garden has 10 gas heaters working for a single night – that is equivalent to the pollution from gas heating 10 homes, all packed into the small space where several people are sitting.
The researchers have highlighted that electric heaters are a much better alternative, they do not produce any local NOx pollution, they use less energy and produce 60% less carbon dioxide emissions.
The report also highlights that pubs, cafes and restaurants can continue to reduce pollution by making changes to the way they cook food.
It is estimated that half of the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution produced in central London comes from commercial cooking – mainly grilling and frying, or anything where fat is heated or smoke is made.
Businesses can reduce this pollution by using oils with higher smoke points, reducing the surface area of oil exposed to the air when frying and cooking on electricity rather than gas burners.
Oliver Lord, head of policy and campaigns at Environmental Defense Fund Europe said: ‘An influx of outdoor gas heaters as lockdown ends would be terrible for our health and our climate.
‘We need to support and encourage the hospitality sector to bounce back safely and use electric heaters, which are far cleaner and more efficient. Heating and powering homes and businesses with gas is already a large source of air pollution in cities. In the midst of a respiratory pandemic, nobody wants to gulp dirty air as they tuck into their meal.’
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