Consultation: Armidale Policy

Public Display of Armidale's Air Quality Policy - summary of submissions received 

General information:

Policy has some nice "motherhood" aims ...
  • To improve community health and life expectancy by reducing exposure to toxic fine particle, air Particulate Matter 2.5 micron, (PM2.5) pollution.
  • To promote and increase the responsible and efficient use of resources to meet energy needs in homes in Armidale Dumaresq.
  • To improve ambient air quality in Armidale’s urban area, having regard to relevant standards and legislation.
  • To support Council’s vision for “Excellent Lifestyle – Sustainable Growth”.
  • To implement this Policy in a manner which is fair to our community, balancing consideration of local climate, environmental sustainability, and community health.
  • To set a feasible air pollution reduction target for the Armidale urban area.
... but  fails to heed the advice of health experts, who recommend not using woodheating when non-polluting alternatives are available. 

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 and electric heaters and energy efficient house design” 

Submission from Dr James Markos, President, Tasmanian Branch, ALF

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” see

The Australian Medical Association called on the Tasmanian Government to ban woodheaters in the Tamar Valley (Launceston) and introduce new subsidies for alternatives

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."

Policy should heed the above recommendations
The policy should be amended to reflect the views of health authorities that, where affordable non-polluting alternatives are availalable (e.g. new houses), woodheaters should not be permitted until new models have been developed that emit similar amounts of health-hazardous PM2.5 pollution as the average passenger car, instead of 200 times as more PM2.5.
Non-polluting alternatives are available, for example The current cost of $3680 for a 1.5 kW system is comparable to the cost of a new woodheater (see right panel). The system will pay for itself in 2.5 years,. Moreover, if ceiling insulation and draftproofing have been installed, the system should almost totally offset the greenhouse gas emissions and costs of reverse cycle electric or gas heating.

Email comments (by April 13) to
Please also email a copy to: airqual[at]3sc[dot]net
(replace '[at]' with '@' and '[dot]' with '.' in our email address).

Advice of health experts important for new houses

1) Better alternatives available. 
New houses have to be fully insulated and designed on passive solar prinicples, so they don't need much heating. Non-polluting heating should cost less (even if electricity and gas prices rise) than buying firewood and lighting even a fire, which then burns for several hours.

2) Every new wood heater has health costs of thousands of dollars per year and puts out as much health hazardous PM2.5 pollution as about 200 passenger cars

3) Current woodheater models emit more greenhouse gases than other forms of heating

4) People affected by woodsmoke have a choice of moving to new subdivisions instead of moving out of town

5) Armidale has not estimated the health costs of woodsmoke pollution
. Communities that know the estimated the health costs have introduced much stricter polities.  For example, a pilot study by team of 25 experts estimated that domestic pollution (virtually all woodsmoke) entails health costs of $127 million per year, equal to NZ$2,700 per heater per year, including 124 premature deaths. 
        The above estimates were based on an internationally-accepted estimate (used for traffic pollution) of 4.5% increased mortality per 10 ug/m3 of PM10 exposure.  The follow-up study compared death rates with measured woodsmoke pollution, and found the actual increase was 8%, implying the true health costs would be closer to NZ$4,000 per heater per year.
        In Montreal, PM2.5 cause an estimated 1,540 premature deaths and 6,028 cases of infantile bronchitis, and 40,449 days of asthma symptoms.  Woodheating accounts for 47% of Montreal’s PM2.5 pollution. 
        Authorities in Christchurch do not permit the installation of woodheaters in new houses and have set very strict standards (ratings less than 1 g/kg) for replacing exising heaters with cleaner models. 
        Despite freezing cold winters (daily minimum temperatures average -13C in January; daily maxima average -5C), Montreal has introduced even stricter policies banning the installation of all new wood stoves from 28 April 2009.         
6) The NSW DECC Advice to Councils concerning the intstallation of new woodheaters states: "In considering an application for approval under s68 a council must take into account the protection of the environment and of public health, safety and convenience (s89(3) LGA)".  Given the magnitude of the estimated health costs in Christchurch and numbers of premature deaths due to woodsmoke in Montreal, Armidale's draft policy allowing heaters that emit as much health-hazardous PM2.5 pollution as 200 passenger cars could not seriously be described as having taken into account the protection of public health. 

Dr D L Robinson,
Apr 11, 2010, 5:44 PM
Dr D L Robinson,
Apr 11, 2010, 5:11 PM
Dr Dorothy L Robinson,
Apr 15, 2010, 1:22 AM
Dr Dorothy L Robinson,
Apr 5, 2010, 1:09 AM