The Australian Home Heating Association (AHHA) represents wood heater manufacturers, who profit by selling more heaters, irrespective of the amount of pollution produced, or the damage to our health.
AHHA told untruths at Senate Inquiry
In August 2013 the Senate Inquiry Impacts on health of air quality in Australia found the AHHA's claims that the failure to strengthen national woodheater standards was because of a "Standards Australia reshuffle" were untrue and confirmed (para 6.35, p 63) that the failure "was the result of a failure of the technical committee to reach consensus within the meaning of Standards Australia's rules, which according to the minutes supplied to the committee was a result of opposition from industry representatives."
Independent bodies such as the American Lung Association say:
"Burning wood emits harmful toxins and fine particles in the air that can worsen breathing problems and lead to heart and lung disease and even early death." and "When possible, the American Lung Association strongly recommends using cleaner, less toxic sources of heat. Converting a wood-burning fireplace or stove to use either natural gas or propane will eliminate exposure to the dangerous toxins wood burning generates including dioxin, arsenic and formaldehyde."
Despite many of these toxins being emitted as as gases, a Media release from the AHHA's in May 2012 claims: "Wood heating is the natural way to heat your home without harming our environment and emitting harmful gases." http://www.homeheat.com.au/pdf/safety_around_wood_heating_may_2012.pdf claims
Lying and deceiving consumers in this way demonstrates that the AHHA puts profits ahead of the truth and people's health. Other pages on this site provide information on the toxins in woodsmoke pollution, PAH comparisons with cigarette smoke and vehicle pollution.
Some examples of the AHHA's deceptive tactics
1) Mislead purchasers into believing new heaters are much cleaner than they really are http://www.homeheat.com.au/enviro_air.htm “Substantial technological advances in the past five years have led to modern wood heaters that produce only a small fraction of the smoke and particle pollution that earlier models did." (They have recently dropped that blatently untrue claim "In most cases up to 80% less” ) The heaters below satisfied the the current wood-heater emissions test and so considered perfectly acceptable by the AHHA to install in new houses without consulting or informing neighbours.
A Federal Government Scoping Paper tells a different story that “Governments have been unable to achieve improvements to national woodheater emission standards due to industry veto in Standards Australia processes. The emissions standard was last revised in 1999 and the current level of 4 grams of particles per kilogram of wood burnt is well above levels achievable by latest technologies and the emissions standard set in New Zealand (ie. 1.5 g/kg).” -p2, EPHC17/8.1 The industry veto in 2007 not only prevented recommendations by the majority of the Australian Standards Committee to halve emissions limits for woodheaters, but a requirement for additional markings on woodheaters drawing attention to the harmful nature of woodsmoke.
The lack of progress in reducing emissions was also revealed by a research study in 2002 by Prof John Gras who tested “a widely-used heater manufactured in 1985 and in well-used condition”. Its measured emissions of 3.5 g/kg imply that a popular model in widespread use 25 yrs ago was less polluting than some models on sale today. In contrast one of the two new heaters (rated 3.7 g/kg) tested, had average emissoins of 12.6 g/kg on low burn and 7.1 g/kg overall, more than twice as polluting as the 1985 model.
Similar findings were noted in a CSIRO study in 2008: "there is not a large distinction in emissions between compliant and non-compliant woodheaters" - paragraph 2, section 5.1.1 "New emission factors"
Even worse, a National audit of wood heater models on sale showed that many did not meet their claimed emissions factors, one model emitting almost 10 times more pollution than claimed by the manufacturer.
2) Ignore the fact that the methane emissions from the average wood heater cause more global warming than heating the same home with gas or a reverse cycle airconditioner. In fact, allowing for the fact that that current firewood use is not ecologically sustainable (e.g. 80-90% of Canberra’s firewood supply is sourced from dead standing paddock trees that are not being regrown) wood heating causes more global warming than heating 3-5 similar houses with gas or an airconditioner.
3) Instead of reporting warnings on the NSW BASIX website that woodheaters contribute significantly to air pollution and may not be permissible in some council areas and that, after no heating, highest BASIX scores are for gas or reverse cycle airconditioners with the highest star ratings
and that, after no heating, the highest start rating gas fixed flue heater or highest star rating air conditioner achieves that highest BASIX score
claim a 4.5 star BASIX rating for wood heaters!!!
The graph left (from Prof Michael Brauer's webinar) shows only a small improvement in pollution after virtually every old stove was removed. The small reduction in pollution is partly due to the fact that some stoves were replaced by non-polluting heating, and partly because the replacement stoves were slighly less polluting than the older models.
The huge sums (over 2.5 million) spent on replacing 1130 stoves to achieve a 28% reduction in pollution seems in a town of 2,600 residents seems like a waste of money compared with the 70% reduction from Launceston $2.05 million woodsmoke-reduction rprogram that focussed on replacing wood heaters with non polluting heating.
The dishonesty of AHHA in claiming that pollution was reduced by more than 80%, when the document they cite reports a 27% fall in outdoor pollution levels is nothing short of shocking. Even tobacco companies would not try to get away with such blatant lies.
5) Although CSIRO research attributes the success of Launceston's woodsmoke program to a drop in the number of woodheaters (from 65% of households in 1992 to less than 20% in 2007) claim instead that "the key to reducing woodsmoke was education about the correct operation of wood heaters and the responsible change over from older style wood heaters". The 2008 CSIRO study reported that the reduction was due to the decline in woodheater usage (see 5.1.3 Model results). There was a good fit with the observed data, implying that new heaters had similar real-life emissions to older models despite all the money spent on education programs.
6) Threaten to sue people suffering health damage from woodsmoke Matthew's Clean Air Society of Kapati Coast describes the threatening letter he recieved from the AHHA, after speaking out about woodsmoke and being forced to move out of his Adelaide home because of the neighbour's woodsmoke. He first sought help from his local council who suggested he take up an offer by the AHHA to talk to his neighbour about how to burn cleanly. The AHHA's efforts were no help, and when he rang up to ask for a meeting, they asked for an email address. He stupidly gave them his work email. He says they never met him, but instead complained to his employer who dismissed their tactics as harrasment.
7) Although 1 new wood heater = as much health-hazardous pollution as about 500 gas heaters, claim all heating appliances "contribute to pollution"
The study of real-life emissions in Launceston showed that, even after an extensive education program on how to operate heaters and the health effects of woodsmoke, emissions of AS4013 heaters averaged 9.4 g/kg. This was from volunteers who were motivated to operate heaters correctly (even getting up in the middle of the night to re-fuel them). Without expensive government funded education programs, emissions are likely to average about `5 g/kg or about 45 kg for a heater burning 3 tonnes per year. Thus the diagram below for Puget Sound, showing 97 lbs (44 kg) for a US EPA certified stove, or 1/500 th of this for a gas heater is similar to the situation in Australia.
The Province of British Columbia says it has successfully replaced over 6,000 wood stoves since 2008. Despite this, the proportion of PM2.5 pollution from wood stoves has increased, as shown in the graph below from a BC Lung Webinar 'Managing Wood Smoke in British Columbia' by Markus Kellerhals, BC Ministry of Environment, January 15, 2014.