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PM2.5 is generally recognized as the most health-hazardous air pollutant that's responsible for more premature deaths and ill health than all other air pollutants put together.  For example, Table 10.1 of the Air quality in Europe — 2020 report shows premature deaths in 2018 attributed to three major pollutants - PM2.5, NO2 and O3.  There were an estimated 492,600 premature deaths for the population of 539.7 million in all countries, of which 85% were attributed to PM2.5, 11% to NO2 and 4% to O3.

Wood heaters are the largest single source of PM2.5 pollution in Sydney, Melbourne and no doubt other major urban areas.  Despite only 4.4% of households using wood as main heating in Sydney, residential wood heating is the largest single source of PM2.5 emissions, according to the NSW 'Air Emissions in My Community' web tool.

Personal communications with Air Quality Scientists In Victoria, shows that residential wood heating is also the largest single source of PM2.5 emissions in Melbourne's Port Phillip Airshed.

Not using wood heating is one of the best ways individuals can reduce their personal contribution to global warming

The toxic truth about wood smoke - Lung Association of British Columbia. "Unfortunately, natural doesn’t always mean harmless. A growing number of studies are associating wood smoke with an array of illnesses like asthma, heart disease and other lung and respiratory illnesses—many of the same illnesses that are associated with smoking.
"In fact, wood smoke has similarities to cigarette smoke. It contains over 200 chemicals and compounds, including carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx), dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). 
"Burning impact on health. Aside from being so similar to cigarette smoke, wood smoke is especially unhealthy due to the size of the particles contained within. ..."

LATEST NEWS news on Woodsmoke and Health

Stanford study: wood smoke can harm the brain

Wood smoke can harm the brain

Spare the Air - San Francisco. Post in Jan 2018 explaining that "Exposure to wood smoke—like cigarette smoke—has been linked to serious respiratory illnesses and even increased risk of heart attacks."

***$1000 reward*** for replacing wood heaters in Armidale with clean heating

Important petition to Health & Environment Ministers & EPAs:

Armidale PM2.5 Measurements

Woodsmoke exposure linked to reduced IQ of children aged 6-7, confirming the results of a study in New York and a research in Poland linking exposure to PAH (the main toxins in woodsmoke, cigarette smoke and traffic fumes) to reduced IQ of children starting school.

Video presentation by Dr Brian Moench (Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment) on how air pollution affects the brain and leads to epigenetic damage that can affect the health of future generations. 

Armidale's Air Quality Policy -
Summary of Submissions

More Air Pollution News Particulate pollution affects heart health, experts speak about woodsmoke and health

 Washington State Dept of Ecology video
Recommendations of Health Experts
The Australian Lung Foundation (ALF) recommends: “use alternative methods (instead of wood heaters) for climate control, including insulating and improving the energy efficiency of homes, flued gas and electric heaters and energy efficient house design” http://lungfoundation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Woodsmoke-The-Burning-Issue.pdf

NSW's top doctor says we should consider banning wood fire heaters  NSW Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant says wood heaters are so detrimental to health she supported banning and phasing them out in built-up urban areas to control wood smoke.

The American Lung Association of California "is urging the public to avoid wood burning and to consider cleaner heating alternatives. Burning wood emits harmful toxins and fine particles into the air that can worsen asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”   The Canadian Lung Association recommends that you don't burn wood in residential setting, as does the American Lung Association.

The Australian Medical Association called on the Tasmanian Government to ban woodheaters in the Tamar Valley (Launceston) and introduce new subsidies for alternatives http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2006/10/16/1765526.htm

Armidale Lung Specialist Dr Gary Baker, “We need to eliminate or minimise the need for heating by design.  Wherever possible, substitution with other non-polluting technologies is the best."  
Retired local GP and UNE Associate Professor John Nevin (who helped set up UNE's medical school) said  "Where people have had respiratory problems and have lived in the inversion hollow of central Armidale I have suggested that they move to the heights or out of town."  It’s not in their best interests to be exposed to the dangerous levels of woodsmoke about.”  ...  "on really bad mornings when the inversion layer comes into affect over Armidale - you can nearly cut the air with a knife, like you are in Beijing."  More than 30 years ago, Dr Nevin heeded his own advice: he moved out of town. Although I don’t have lung trouble, I don’t want to be exposed to the risk of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and emphysema”, he said.

The Fireplace Delusion:  by Sam Harris.  "The case against burning wood is every bit as clear as the case against smoking cigarettes. Indeed, it is even clearer, because when you light a fire, you poison the air that everyone around you for miles must breathe ... 
"I have discovered that when I make this case, even to highly intelligent and health-conscious men and women, a psychological truth quickly becomes as visible as a pair of clenched fists: They do not want to believe any of it. Most people I meet want to live in a world in which wood smoke is harmless. Indeed, they seem committed to living in such a world, regardless of the facts.
"And yet, the reality of our situation is scientifically unambiguous: If you care about your family’s health and that of your neighbors, the sight of a glowing hearth should be about as comforting as the sight of a diesel engine idling in your living room." 

Truth vs Sensationalism
     The wood heating industry argues that providing people with simple facts, e.g. that the average new woodheater produces as much health-hazardous PM2.5 pollution as 100-267 passenger cars is "sensationalism".
     Simple facts needed to make an intelligent decision about home heating systems should never be considered "sensational".  Much more sensational is the problem that these facts are not widely known, and that industry has been allowed to describe a product that emits more health-hazardous PM2.5 pollution than 100 passenger cars as clean or environmentally friendly.
      Intelligent people generally take claims of cigarette manufacturers (who make money from selling their product) with a pinch of salt.   For similar reasons, the recommendations of health experts such as the Australian Lung Foundation, the American Lung Association and the AMA should be considered more reliable than what the wood heating industry wants us to believe.

American Lung Association - 10 tips for cleaner air
7. Avoid burning wood.
Avoid use of wood burning in indoor and outdoor fireplaces. Just like tobacco smoke, wood smoke pollution is harmful to your health. Wood burning comprises 33 percent of particle pollution during the winter in some areas. Cleaner burning alternatives such as natural gas and electric fireplaces are available for the glow without the smoke!
Welcome to the Australian Air Quality Group Website
These pages summarise (and provide sources for) important information about the health hazards of one of the major sources of health-hazardous PM2.5 fine particle pollution - wood heating. 
Another section provides more comprehensive research information into all sources of air pollution and non-polluting environmentally alternatives such as solar heating.

Air pollution
    PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) exposure causes genetic damage in babies and a 5 point reduction in a child's IQ at age 5.   These effects were found in a US study of mothers exposed during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy to PAH levels just over a quarter of Armidale's average winter measurements.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
With abrupt climate change approaching faster than predicted according to scientists, fast-action mitigation strategies are essential in order to avoid passing the tipping pointsThe Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD) has embarked on a “fast-action” climate mitigation campaign to promote non-CO2 strategies that will result in significant emissions reductions in the near-term. These strategies include reducing emissions of short-term climate forcers, such as black carbon, methane, and tropospheric ozone.
        Under normal operation, methane emissions from the average Australian wood heater in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane will cause more global warming over a 100-year timespan than heating the same house with gas or a reverse cycle airconditioner.  The problem, as explained by the IGSD, is that the world's climate might reach a tipping point in substantially less than 100 years.  Over a 50 year timespan, the average Australian wood heater will cause more global warming than gas or reverse cycle electric heating, even if the wood is from a sustainable source.  

Reverse-cycle Air Conditioners: Australian Renewable Energy Giants
maybe the cheapest way to heat your home this winter! 
Slideshow presentation by Dr Tim Forcey, Melbourne Energy Institute, December 2015, showing the cost and environmental benefits of heating out homes with modern, efficient heater-air-conditioners.

Environmental Sustainabilty - Logs Have Life Inside
The Federal Department of Environment Brochure explains:
"What people often don't know, is that collecting logs for firewood can harm animals, birds and other creatures living and feeding inside. Hollow logs provide a safe and warm place for animals to hide in and raise families. Birds make nests in hollow trees. Insects, like the stag beetle, feed on dead wood to survive. Many birds, reptiles and mammals in turn need to eat insects for their survival. Sadly, not enough people know that logs have life inside, meaning many types of animals and plants are disappearing when their homes are burnt for firewood."
Collecting dead wood for firewood affects many different types of creatures: birds, mammals, reptiles,amphibians, invertebrates and fungi.
  • Think of logs as homes for animals and birds.
  • Leave hollow logs alone, whether they're standing or lying on the ground.
  • Look for thin pieces of wood, instead of fat logs that may form hollows if left to decay.
  • If you take dead wood from your backyard, farm or other spot, leave some behind - if everyone takes wood there won't be any left.
  • If you take wood, plant a tree to replace it.