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Wood burning causes three times more PM2.5 pollution than road traffic emissions

DEFRA statistics reveal that domestic combustion created over 47,000 tonnes of PM2.5 pollution in 2019, making up 88 per cent of all PM2.5 produced in the UK.

While only 8 percent of the UK population cause this pollution by burning wood indoors, wood burning stoves have been exposed as the most dangerous emitter and largest source of air pollution, government data shows.

Particulate pollution is detrimental to human health because it ‘may enter the bloodstream and be transported around the body, lodging in the heart, brain and other organs,’ as the DEFRA report explains.

Currently the government is not planning a ban on wood burners, but a ban on the retail sale of wet wood will come into force on 1 May this year and house coal sold in bags. Wet wood has not been seasoned as produces higher levels of pollution. These are the first restrictions since the 1950s clean air acts.

Over the years, wood-sourced emissions from households have dramatically increased, having more than doubled from 20,000 tonnes a year in 2003.

Meanwhile, road vehicles which are currently powered by petrol or diesel produce 13,000 tonnes of PM2.5 a year. This shows a clear improvement as legislation forces out older, polluting vehicles in favour of cleaner fuels.

‘Exhaust emissions have decreased markedly since 1996 due to stricter emissions standards, by 85 per cent for both PM10 and PM2.5,’ the DEFRA report explained.

However, non-tail pipe emissions has significantly increased due to more traffic on the roads. ‘This has been partially offset by an increase of non-exhaust emissions (e.g., brake, tyre and road wear) as traffic activity has increased,’ the report added.

In terms of wood burning however, it was found that more affluent homes who do not depend on fires for warmth as mainly responsible for this particulate matter pollution.

‘We have 8 per cent of UK homes that are responsible for about 40 per cent of PM2.5 pollution. Wood burning in homes has crept up under the radar while we all focused our attention on diesel traffic,’ Gary Fuller of Imperial College London explained.

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