Environmental and health dangers of wood burners

Health risk

The environmental and health dangers of wood burners were highlighted towards the end of 2022 in a report from chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty – namely that wood burning stoves produced 450 times more toxic air pollution than gas central heating. Older stoves, banned from sale, produced 3,700 times more, while electric heating produces none, the report said.

Fast forward 15 months and a new UK government data revealed that a rise in harmful emissions from wood-burning stoves had largely offset decreases in particulate pollution from road and energy sources.

Between 2012 and 2022 heating homes using solid fuel such as wood increased by 19%, counteracting efforts made to travel and produce commercial energy in less polluting ways. According to figures from the Stove Industry Alliance (SAI), sales were up by 67% in the last three months of 2022 compared with the previous year. SIA believes that 1.5m homes in the UK have one.

Government statisticians believed that this reflected the greater popularity of solid fuel appliances in the home such as wood-burning stoves. Highlighting the environmental and health dangers of wood burners Dr Gary Fuller, an air pollution scientist at Imperial College London, said: “smoke from home fires feels like a problem from a Dickens novel but the rising popularity of solid fuel heating is slowing progress in cleaning our air and undermining the major investments in reducing air pollution from traffic and industry.”

Another growing source comes from the industrial combustion of biomass, statistics show. There has been recent anger at the government’s decision to offer North Yorkshire’s Drax power station located on the River Ouse between Selby and Goole in extra subsidies to burn trees for electricity.

You can find out more by watching this YouTube video about wood burning stoves and Drax at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiShQdLILZo