This article explains the problems with wood burning and the solutions you can take to reduce the impact on air pollution and your health.
If you have a complaint about nuisance wood burning and smoke, please contact your local council. If you or your loved ones are vulnerable to air pollution, you can follow air pollution forecasts, such as DEFRA-Air or try the AirVisual app.
Many people aren’t aware that household burning, such as the use of wood stoves and open fires, is the biggest contributor to particulate matter pollution. Also that carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates from domestic appliances, such as boilers, heaters, fires and stoves, which burn carbon and fossil fuels, such as gas, coal and wood, causes poor indoor air quality.
Inhalation of particulate matter pollution has health impacts and there is no safe level. Long-term exposure to particulates increases age-specific mortality risk, particularly from cardiovascular causes. Short-term exposure to high concentrations of particulates can exacerbate lung and heart conditions, significantly affecting quality of life, and increasing deaths and hospital admissions.
Household burning is the biggest contributor to particulate matter pollution.
We know that wood burners are cosy and nostalgic and that people have chosen them for environmental reasons, but we can all do our bit to reduce pollution in our home and neighbourhood. If you burn less, burn cleaner, burn better and burn different you’ll be reducing and avoiding outdoor and indoor air pollution and the associated health impacts for your family and community.
Burn less: Reduce burning of solid fuel where possible, keep the use of stoves and fires to particularly cold weather and choose other heating options if suitable or available. Consider the amount and type of fuel or wood you buy ahead of winter months.
We’re conscious there are households that burn wood to keep warm, and it’s important for your health and wellbeing to stay warm and well. If you do rely on solid fuel for heating, please use authorised fuels and exempt appliances, or consider switching fuels.
Burn cleaner: Use cleaner fuels on your stove and open fires, such as smokeless, authorised fuels or dry, well-seasoned ‘ready to burn’ wood with low moisture content. Consider the types of fuel you buy, where you buy them, seasoning, moisture content and correct storage.
Burn better: Use efficient appliances, such as DEFRA exempt, EU Ecodesign 2022 or ClearSkies mark, and service and clean them regularly. ‘Burn Right‘ in your appliance, including not shutting off air or allowing the temperature to drop. Consider the types of appliance you buy, where to buy them, how they are installed, used, serviced and cleaned.
Burn different: If possible, switch heating source to no or low emission fuels, such as renewable, electric or gas alternatives, which will reduce particulate pollution and can reduce carbon emissions. There is currently funding available for low carbon heating, through the government’s Green Homes Grant. Please note: The Green Homes Grant voucher scheme will be closed to new applications from 5pm on 31 March 2021.
Other ways to reduce and avoid air pollution from wood burning and heating include:
Follow Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service bonfire safety advice, be aware of the impacts of air pollution and be considerate to neighbours and your community.
If you do have a bonfire, only burn dry, untreated wood and no other household or garden waste, in particular avoid burning firelighters, oil rubber, plastics or any wood with varnish, paint or creosote.
Check your bonfire thoroughly before lighting, for small animals like hedgehogs and mice, and make sure your bonfire is away from trees and hedges where wildlife may be sheltering.
Further ways to limit exposure to air pollution include:
Read our Breathe Easy article for more on air pollution.