Health is being damaged by rise in wood burners

Campaign group urges wood burners to be banned by 2032
17 November 2022 , Katie Coyne

The rising cost of living is fuelling sales of wood burning stoves, a proven producer of particle pollution

Sales of wood stoves are soaring, with the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) reporting a 40% increase in sales over the last year. SIA said consumers are purchasing wood burners to help reduce rapidly rising fuel bills.

Yet domestic wood burners are damaging to our health. Campaign group, Mums for Lungs has written a letter to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, Health Minister, Steve Barclay, and Environment Minister, Therese Coffey, urging them to take action to protect the public’s health.

They are calling for a phasing-out of the sale of wood burners by 2027, and a ban on their use by 2032 (unless they are a sole source of heat), as well as a public health awareness campaign around the issue.

Data published earlier this year by the European Public Health Alliance found that already in the UK, wood burning was responsible for £900m in health care costs.

Burning wood creates particle pollution, PM2.5, which studies have shown can penetrate deep into the lungs, and reach the brain and other organs, and the placenta in pregnant women.  

Jemima Hartshorn, Founder, Mums for Lungs said: “People are not aware of what they're doing to themselves by burning wood. If people knew that having a wood burner now is going to much more likely result in their children, or their neighbours’ children, having asthma or to set a course for themselves to have diabetes later in life, or dementia or cancer, they would probably reconsider their choices.

“That is an absolute scandal that people don't have this choice. They don't understand. They simply don't know because the awareness is so low and because the public health message hasn't been getting out there.”

The campaign group is also critical of the regulation around wood stoves, arguing that it is unenforceable as councils can’t get access, even if they had the manpower, to enter people’s homes and check they are using the correct fuels.

“As an MP I must try to represent what the people in my constituency need and what they need right now is heat.”

Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset said there was no real reason for people in urban areas with access to the gas and electricity grid to be using wood stoves.

But he added, they were essential for his constituents where the choice of heat source was liquid petroleum gas, diesel, or wood, and there are “virtually no alternatives” such as solar or wind power.

Liddell-Grainger added that many of the homes in Exmoor still have appliances such as back boilers (where household water is heated in a boiler at the back of the fire), and Aga cookers, many of which still run on solid fuel. A large number of properties are built out of stone that cannot be easily insulated, and the population is older and more susceptible to cold.

He said: “As an MP I must try to represent what the people in my constituency need, and what they need right now is heat.”

The SIA argued that modern stoves compliant with the Ecodesign Regulation emit lower levels of PM2.5 – up to 90% less than an open fire, and up to 80% less than older stoves. And that using properly certified fuels labelled ‘ready to burn’ were low carbon, low emission, and cheaper than gas or electricity.

Andy Hill, Chair of the Stove Industry Alliance said: “Every sector has a role to play in minimising air pollution and improving air quality in order to protect future generations. The stove industry is no exception, and our members are fully committed to continuously developing appliances to further improve their efficiency and lower their emissions.”

Image credit: Shutterstock 

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