Appeal to Australian Environment Ministers Meeting, 15 Dec 2015: Save 700 lives a year by cleaning up air and woodsmoke pollution
Although a 6 ug/m3 standard would avoid the premature deaths of at least 700 Australians per year, t
he NSW EPA said that much of the pollution they were measuring at the Richmond & Liverpool sites, Sydney was from wood burning and it might be difficult to tighten PM2.5 standards.
January 2016.To ease pollution and protect health consider alternatives to burning wood for heat.
... The agency recommends that good neighbors eliminate or limit the amount of wood smoke they produce. “Most wood heaters, such as woodstoves and fireplaces, release far more air pollution, indoors and out, than heaters using other fuels,” it stated. “In winter, when people heat their homes the most, cold nights with little wind cause smoke and air pollutants to remain stagnate at ground level for long periods.” In families where individuals suffer from chronic or repeated respiratory problems, like asthma or emphysema, or have heart disease, wood should not be burned at all.
January 2016. UK: 2.4 times more PM2.5 pollution from domestic wood burning than traffic. "Revised figures show domestic wood burning to be the UK’s largest single source of PM2.5 emissions, 2.4 times greater than all PM2.5 emissions from traffic ... The sooner policymakers recognize the disproportionate contribution of wood stoves to PM2.5 pollution (a tiny minority of UK households using wood stoves emit over twice as much PM2.5 as all the UK’s cars, trucks and buses), recognize the disproportionate health costs – thousands of pounds per wood stove per year – and consequently heed the UNEP/WMO recommendation to phase our log-burning stoves in developed countries, the better it will be for our health and the health of our planet.
January 2016. Log fires or traffic fumes: what's the real cause of Bergen's air pollution?
The air quality in Norway’s second largest city, Bergen, grew so bad earlier this month that the council surprised residents by introducing a week-long, alternate-day plan for private vehicles. But the reality is rather different: new research shows that in Norway, the burning of logs in homes is a far bigger contributor to the problem than traffic – and more damaging to residents’ health. Recently, the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) published statistics showing that “particulate matter from log burning in cities is more dangerous than pollution from traffic”. Research by Statistics Norway (SSB), meanwhile, concluded that 61% of the particulate matter in Norway’s air stems from its 1.7 million existing log fires, compared to 39% from private vehicles, buses and lorries.
January 2016. Metro Vancouver plans wood burning crackdown.
"Wood fireplace owners who smoke up the neighbourhood may be in for a fight with Metro Vancouver. Air quality planners at the regional district will propose to gradually restrict wood burning in the region to reduce the health hazard posed by fine particulate. ...
"Most new fireplaces being installed are natural gas or electric rather than wood, but Metro staff are also contemplating whether to recommend building code and municipal bylaws ban wood ones entirely. "Should there be any wood-burning fireplaces in new construction at all? We feel there shouldn't be," Quan said.
"Public awareness is also part of the strategy. Metro now issues air quality bulletins for wood smoke when cold stagnant air is expected to produce smoky conditions. The first bulletin
was issued in late November."
1 January 2016. Summary of PM2.5 measurements in 2015.
PM2.5 measurements (graph, left) show that the NSWEPA-funded woodsmoke program in Muswellbrook (a mining town supplying coal to power stations that generate enough electricity for 3.25 million homes) has not reduced PM2.5 pollution. Although only a few hundred houses are believed to use woodheating, chemical fingerprinting showed that woodsmoke was the major source (62%) of Muswellbrook's PM2.5. Health-hazardous PM2.5 are still substantially higher during the wood heating season. The EPA-funded program has clearly not persuaded wood-heater uses to switch to non-polluting heating or operate their wood heaters more carefully. The valuable lessons learned in Launceston are being forgotten - that the only effective way to reduce woodsmoke pollution is to switch to non-polluting heating; trying to persuade people to operate heaters correctly has little benefit.
Muswellbrook had 3 exceedances of the PM2.5 standard, all in winter:
The highest number of exceedances of the PM2.5 standard in NSW in 2015 was, Armidale, where woodsmoke pollution resulted in 34 days > 25 ug/m3:
24/5/15 35, 25/5/15 27, 3/6/15 33, 4/6/15 27, 6/6/15 26, 8/6/15 33, 21/6/15 49, 22/6/15 50, 23/6/15 36, 24/6/15 38, 25/6/15 26, 28/6/15 28, 16/7/15 26, 28/7/15 31, 29/7/15 28, 1/8/15 33, 2/8/15 30, 11/8/15 28, 15/8/15 35, 16/8/15 46, 17/8/15 31, 26/8/15 34, 27/8/15 26, 28/8/15 51, 29/8/15 64, 30/8/15 59, 31/8/15 35, 1/9/15 26, 4/9/15 26, 5/9/15 28, 6/9/15 31, 7/9/15 30, 12/9/15 26, 15/9/15 26)
Comparison of measured PM2.5 in Armidale and Muswellbrook, 2010-2105 (click to enlarge).
Other locations that exceeded the PM2.5 standard were:
Stockton:3 27/6/15 27, 4/7/15 27.4, 5/7/15 30.9
Liverpool 2: 7/6/15 30.2, 21/8/15 32.2
Mayfield 2: 22/8/15 27.7, 20/12/15 30.2
Earlwood 2: 30/6/15 25.1 21/8/15 28.0
Carrington 1: 22/8/15 30.7
Rozelle 1: 21/8/15 33.4
Chullora 1: 21/8/15 37.2
Newcastle 1: 22/8/15 28.4
Beresfield 1: 21/8/15 25.9
Wollongong 1: 21/8/15 31.6
Locations with no measurements above 25 ug/m3:
Wyong 0, Wallsend 0, Richmond 0, Singleton 0, Camberwell 0, Wagga 0, Camden 0.
January 2016. How Do You Fight The World's 'Largest Environmental Health Problem'? Harness The Sun. Every day, nearly half the people in the world prepare their meals over burning wood, charcoal or animal dung. And every year, more than 4 million people -- most of them women and children -- die prematurely from the resulting household smoke. The practice also contributes to deforestation and climate change. Cooking with energy from the sun could soon put a major dent in what some experts call the world's greatest environmental health issue.
January 2016. 1st ‘Spare the Air' alert of the season called; wood-burning prohibited
BAAQMD reminds that this means a ban on burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel, both indoors and outdoors for 24 hours. Air quality managers say the light winds will contribute to poor air quality in the Bay Area, especially in the Santa Clara Valley.
“Air pollution from wood smoke is one of the greatest health threats to Bay Area residents during the winter months,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District. "Just one burning fireplace can create unhealthy air for an entire neighborhood. It is important that the public refrain from burning, especially during these weather conditions that allow wood smoke to build up."
December 2015. UK domestic wood burning emits 2.3 times more PM2.5 than traffic! The UK's Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs' statistical release 'Emissions of air pollutants in the UK, 1970 to 2014' reports that domestic wood burning emitted 35,900 tonnes of PM2.5 in 2013, 2.4 times as much as all PM2.5 from traffic. Above average winter temperatures in 2014 resulted in a slightly lower at 34,000 tonnes, 2.3 times as much as traffic's PM2.5. Although the report does not explain the massive upward revision in PM2.5 emissions from domestic wood burning, it seems likely that real-life emissions from wood burning stove have been found to be much higher than previously thought. With 38,700 premature deaths attributed to PM2.5 pollution in the UK and domestic wood burning responsible for over twice as many PM2.5 in the UK as all cars, trucks and buses, the best option for UK residents would be to phase out log-burning stoves to improve health, reduce air pollution and reduce global warming.
December 2015. Doctor’s Orders: Wood Burning Hazardous to Your Health. "Here is a brief message to share with your wood burning neighbors. If you are not a smoker, burning wood is probably the greatest threat to your own health of anything that you can do. But it is also a threat to your children and your neighbors, as inappropriate and intolerable as blowing cigarette smoke in their faces all winter long. Your neighbors are less than enthusiastic about sacrificing their health for your freedom to burn wood. Living in a civilized society means they shouldn’t have to."
December 2015. Italy: Town bans pizza-making over soaring pollution.
issued by the mayor of San Vitaliano, just outside of Naples, bans the use of wood-fired stoves in bakeries and eateries including pizzerias unless their owners install special filters to reduce air pollution. Bad air quality is a longstanding problem for San Vitaliano. According to Il Mattino
newspaper, it is more polluted than Beijing, while nearby Naples - usually seen as one of Italy's worst offenders in terms of air quality - seems like "a perfumed garden" in comparison. In 2015, San Vitaliano exceeded the threshold for emissions 114 times, compared to 86 times in Milan, another badly polluted Italian city, the paper says.
Two reports — one by former faculty members of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and the other by US, Indian and University of Birmingham researchers — said wood smoke is the prime contributor to the presence of PM 2.5 — fine particles with a width of 2.5 .
December 2015. Agreed Statement, Environment Ministers Meeting.
Ministers agreed to measures to reduce air pollution from wood heaters, including the adoption of new emission and efficiency standards for new wood heaters and sharing best management practices across jurisdictions. This approach encourages innovation and sharing of cost effective approaches and allows each jurisdiction to tailor actions for local conditions and priorities.
December 2015. COMMENT: Air pollution is now the invisible killer.
Mehreen Faruki, Newcastle Herald. Poor air quality is costing us our lives, health and money. It is responsible for 3000 Australians’ deaths and costs more than $5 billion every year. Some of the worst culprits include wood fire heaters which produce the majority of Sydney’s fine particle pollution during winter
December 2015. Where there's smoke, there may be bronchitis. Smokers and nonsmokers around wood smoke were 9 percent more likely to have trouble breathing — and specifically 11 percent more likely to suffer bronchitis symptoms. "The effect is all the more worrisome given that COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S ... The important lesson is that the adverse respiratory effects exist in residences of rural mountainous communities across the United States,” said Dr. Akshay. “Before we thought that COPD was just (from) cigarette smoke, but now we can see that it’s really quite something more.” “We were surprised by the strength of the association, which was largely comparable to the effect size seen in developing countries,” Dr. Akshay added. “Our study was done in Albuquerque and surrounding communities and our suspicion is that wood smoke is higher in rural communities and mountainous locations, such as the Rocky Mountain Belt and Appalachia. December 2015. Wood smoke presents major health hazard. Jennifer Lawson of the Cowichan Fresh Air Team said, “Wood smoke is like tobacco smoke; there is no safe level for wood smoke.” Later she added, “Breathing wood smoke is smoking, we need legislative change.” She called for bylaws that would disallow fire places or wood stoves in new homes, or from being installed in existing homes, and ban outdoor burning.
Commenting on a suggestion that instead of an exchange program swapping old wood stoves for new units, North Cowichan should look at a program that would encourage switch overs to new, clean technologies like heat pumps, Mayor Jon Lefebure said his stance is changing. “I have come to the point where I agree with Ms. Lawson that I don’t feel good when we exchange an old wood stove for a new wood stove,” he said.
November 2015. $10 stove responds to wood smoke’s risks.
In 2013 Carlos Glatt became a first-hand witness to the harmful effects of cooking with firewood. He was part of a group of volunteers distributing food to the victims and survivors of Hurricanes Ingrid and Manuel in the state of Guerrero.
Touched by the case of a 14-year-old teen with “lung pain,” Glatt decided to design a greener alternative to the wood stove.
His product, called La Estufita GlattStove, or the Little GlattStove, looks like a large can and is fueled by a liquid, natural gas-based fuel that, Glatt claims, pollutes less than wood and even propane.
Glatt plans to sell 50% of his production through supermarkets and convenience stores at US $10; a liter of fuel will sell for $1.
The other half will be sold to economically-marginalized communities at a much-reduced price through the collaboration of donors who will pay 90% of the stove’s price; consumers will be able to purchase it for just $1.
November 2015. My view: Even a little air pollution harms everyone. Brian Moench, Utah Physicians for A Healthy Environment. Here’s a take-home message. Pollution is not just a problem during our thick winter inversions, as this study clearly showed. Even a little air pollution does a little harm to many, if not all of us, and can do much harm to those at high risk. Air pollution makes people sick in multiple ways. All the major organs are affected. It can be lethal by causing heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, cancer and multiple other maladies, beginning with intrauterine development and impairment of the basic building blocks of life, the chromosomes.
Most state and federal regulatory schemes assume everyone in the community breathes the same pollution, therefore facing the same health risk. But on a supposedly “green” day for the community at large, there can be pockets of pollution that would make Beijing blush ... As we enter the winter season, many people will also be taking a real “hit from their neighbors,” homeowners who crank up wood stoves and fireplaces. Research has shown that if you are downwind of a neighbor or restaurant that burns wood, you may be inhaling pollution levels up to 100 times greater than what is measured at the nearest monitoring station. Other research shows that most of that pollution can penetrate inside your home and stay there long after a storm cleans out the air in the valley.
Furthermore, not all pollution is created equal. Wood smoke is by far the most toxic type of pollution that most people ever breathe, much more biologically reactive than secondhand cigarette smoke....
November 2015. 15 Advantages of a Natural Gas Fireplace. "We know that a warm fireplace can make your home feel comfortable during the winter. However, wood burning fireplaces present major health risks. If you are a frequent fireplace user, check out these 15 advantages of a natural gas fireplace and consider making the switch!
November 2015. The dangers of the flu.
If people use a fireplace or wood stove, those are major irritants to people with lung disease. Even outdoor woodsmoke is an irritant. New Hampshire’s population has one of the highest exposures to outdoor woodsmoke, which can exacerbate breathing issues for those already dealing with respiratory illness.
If you have COPD, emphysema, asthma or any respiratory condition, try to avoid burning wood or being exposed to wood smoke."
Doctors say particles from wood smoke can trigger asthma attacks and heart problems. They also contain cancer causing chemicals. Wood smoke adds to the pollution we see during the winter when we have inversions.
“Every time that you burn wood, it's going to have an impact on the air quality, and if people are outside they actually experience poor health aspects of it,” Spangler said.
October 2015. Researcher questions planned burns. University of Tasmania Menzies Institute for Medical Research public health physician and environmental epidemiologist Fay Johnston said if one accepted a higher mortality rate in the Latrobe Valley during and after the months of the blaze, one would also have to accept that planned fuel reduction burning in Australia carried a significant mortality risk for the population.
Dr Johnston said there were numerous examples of planned burn smoke impacts of similar magnitude to the mine fire.
"There is no evidence that concentration-response relationships for particulate matter from landscape fires and mortality are substantially different from particulate matter from background urban sources," Dr Johnston said.
October 2015. Reducing global health risks through mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants
World Health Organization Report highlights the need to reduce emissions short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP), including black carbon, methane, and ozone. SLCP are responsible for a substantial fraction of climate change as well as for a significant proportion of air-pollution related deaths and diseases that kill some 7 million people per year. The report again highlights the measures recommended by the UNEP report, including clean cookstoves in developing countries, preventing methane leaks from mines, pipelines and landfills, banning open burning of agricultural waste, cleaner transport and phasing out log-burning stoves in developed countries. Dr Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general at WHO, commented: “Every day, these pollutants threaten the health of men, women and children. For the first time, this report recommends actions that countries, health and environment ministries, and cities can take right now to reduce emissions, protect health and avoid illness and premature deaths, which often take the greatest toll on the most vulnerable.”
October 2015. California: Wood fireplaces and stoves banned in new buildings.
"The aim of the regulations ... is to limit emissions of the fine particles in smoke produced by combustion of wood and other solid fuels and wood products, such as pellets. This particulate matter can find its way into a person’s lungs and bloodstream and is linked to greater risk of heart attack, stroke, asthma, respiratory distress and other lung conditions, including cancer, according to the American Lung Association.
“It has a myriad of health impacts, like cigarette smoke,”
air district spokeswoman Kristine Roselius said.
And it’s the No. 1 source of air pollution during the winter months
, the air district said.
“It’s nasty,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a member of the air district board of directors, which unanimously approved the rule amendments Wednesday. “And it’s a lot more nasty than most people realize.”
The district board also approved a $3 million grant program to help offset the cost to homeowners of swapping out polluting stoves and fireplaces with gas, propane or electric heaters — or at least EPA-certified wood-burning devices, where no other heating option is available. .... Home sales and rental contracts also must include disclosure about the health hazards of fine particulate matter from wood smoke .... Effective Nov. 1, 2018, rental properties in natural gas service areas must have an alternative heating device other than wood burning....
The Lung Association was among more than a dozen health organizations that lauded the new rules, local spokeswoman Jenny Bard said.“We have been involved on this issue for two decades, and we receive calls every winter from residents whose health is impacted by their neighbors’ wood burning
,” the association said. “This is a serious health issue, and we appreciate the Air District’s leadership to reduce exposures
October 2015. WOOD heaters could be banned across Armidale after smoke pollution exceeded national health standards in 13 out of 14 days monitored.
We can’t go on living in this filthy air now Armidale’s ‘dirty little secret’ is out,” Armidale Dumaresq councillor Margaret O’Connor said.
Together with councillor Peter O’Donohue, she is leading the charge to ban all wood heaters across Armidale by 2030.
The councillors want to ban wood heaters installed in all new homes and also ban the installation of any new wood heaters.
October 2015. Asthma Australia - wood heaters - a bigger scandal than VW. There is an even bigger air pollution scandal in Australia than the one perpetrated by Volkswagen, according to the Australian Air Quality Group.Air Quality Group spokesperson, Dr Dorothy Robinson, says that household wood heating is the largest single source of fine particle pollution (the most health-hazardous air pollutant) emissions in many towns and cities.
Dr Robinson says a wood heater can produce as much toxic air pollution in one day as a car does in a year and, like the VW scandal, laboratory tests on wood burning heaters fail to give a true picture of their emissions under real life operation.
“The true extent of the problem is highlighted by Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing that only 4 per cent of households in Sydney burn wood as the main form of heating. “Yet according to the NSW EPA, residential wood heating is responsible for over half of fine particle emissions in Sydney, every year.
Asthma Foundation NSW supports three key recommendations to the NSW Woodsmoke Control Options that would together reduce wood smoke health costs by 75%. These include:
Removal of existing heaters that do not meet a health-based standard when houses are offered for sale.
Not allowing the installation of new heaters that do not meet a health-based standard and a tax on all wood heaters that do not meet current standards.
Licencing fees to cover the cost of wood smoke-reduction programs with assistance for people whose health or lifestyle has been affected by wood smoke.
“We need to protect the public from the detrimental health impacts of wood heater pollution. The failure to recall and repair wood heaters found to be up to 10 times more polluting than their certified values, needs to be addressed” Ms Goldman said.
A new study by a science team led by Los Alamos National Laboratory shows that he particulates found in urban smoke are especially prone to absorbing sunlight and having a heating effect on the planet. The new analysis demonstrates that wood burning emits organic species that coat soot particles produced by diesel combustion, creating a lens to focus sunlight and increase warming. The study also shows that the magnification is increased as the particles age and are coated with more airborne chemicals.
“This is a double whammy,” said project leader Manvendra Dubey. “The transparent organics amplify soot’s warming by lensing, and then we have this very stable brown carbon that causes additional warming. We clearly elucidate the detailed processes that makes the carbon particle much more potent warming agents and provide a framework to capture them in climate models.”
The researchers used state-of-the-art instruments in field studies near London tracking an urban plume as it moved across Europe. The observed lensing effect was successfully reproduced by theoretical calculations and laboratory measurements.
The paper also underscored the need for multiple field studies in more diverse environments with mixed carbon sources. Dubey noted that a similar study published in the journal Science in 2012 saw no enhanced light absorption in soot particles in California in the summer. He said that the key difference is that the sampled region did not have the solid wood combustion that was pervasive in the United Kingdom during wintertime.
October 2015 Hoosier, Indiana: new grant program to encourage replacement of dirty Outdoor Wood Boilers with clean, renewable energy. The Hoosier Environmental Council and the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest — with the support of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Citizens Action Coalition, Indiana Wildlife Federation, and Sierra Club — launched an innovative, new grant program to financially encourage owners of dirty Outdoor Wood Boilers to replace their systems with clean, renewable energy. Selected awardees could receive up to 100% funding for replacing their old OWBs with new solar, geothermal, or geothermal/solar combination systems. Learn more — and apply — at this dedicated microsite, “It’s Doable, Go Renewable”
–Public Health Toxicologist David Brown, Sc.D., an expert in wood smoke:
“Some of the health effects reported…include awakening at night with coughing, headaches, inability to catch breath, continual sore throats, bronchitis and colds requiring children to stay home from school. In some cases the breathing difficulty has gone into asthma attacks requiring emergency-room treatment. Even episodes of short-term exposures to extreme levels of fine particulates from wood smoke and other sources, for periods as short as two hours, can produce significant adverse effects.”
-Oncologist D. Barry Boyd, MD: “In addition to the fine particulate matter, wood smoke contains a number of organic compounds that are potential or recognized carcinogens. Exposure over time may raise the risk not only of chronic lung disease but also of lung cancer. As well, wood smoke interferes with normal lung development in infants and children. It increases children’s risk of lower respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Wood smoke exposure can depress the immune system and damage the layer of cells in the lungs that protect and cleanse the airways.”
Other Struggles Facing Victims of OWB Wood Smoke: • People boarding up their homes to try to keep out smoke.
• Working class families spending money that could have been used to buy food or clothing are forced to buy expensive air filtration systems to protect their families from the plumes of smoke coming at them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. One HEPA replacement filter can alone cost $90.
September 2015. New Brunswick Power, Canada, launches heat pump rebate program.
NB Power is starting a new program that is expected to help people save on electricity costs. The utility is offering a $500 rebate on the purchase of a high-efficiency heat pump.
"The heat pumps [in this campaign] are going to stand the test of our crazy temperatures. Everyone has seen a day in the winter where it hits –20 C, especially the last two or three years we've had weird winters where temperatures have gone lower than normal," said Mudge.
"We wanted to make sure the heat pumps homeowners in New Brunswick are purchasing are going to make sense for them to use in our type of climate."
In a 2-minute video, David Attenborough explains that our world and its wildlife are in danger because of climate change. In the 1960s, scientists overcame immense odds to put men on the moon. A similar effort is now needed to combat climate change. If we make renewable energy cheaper than coal, fossil fuels will stay in the ground.
David Attenborough, Professor Cox, and many other leaders of business, science and industry have put their names to a call for an investment of $15 billion a year over 10 years to make this happen. For much less than the $100 billion per year currently spent on defence, we could save our planet from climate change. The money invested in research would not only pay for itself, but provide significant economic benefits.
Leaders of the world are urged to commit, by the Paris climate conference in December, to the positive, practical initiative, named the Global Apollo Program, in honour of the 1960s program that saw men walking on the moon. It's a short, but very powerful message that needs to be heard.
September 2015. More people die from air pollution than Malaria and HIV/Aids.
A new study shows that more than 3 million people a year are killed prematurely by outdoor air pollution, more than malaria and HIV/Aids combined. Details published in the prestigious journal 'Nature' reveal that The 1,002,370 from residential energy (presumably wood and coal smoke), more than double the 464,748 premature deaths from power generation and much higher than the 226,137 from industry, 179,268 from biomass burning and 163,852 from land traffic. See also Heating, Cooking Are Top Contributors to Air-Pollution Deaths Worldwide.
September 2015. Scotland’s environment minister has praised “significant progress” on reducing air pollution
since 1990, with a new report showing emissions of most pollutants continued to fall in 2013. However, the report also shows that in more recent years the rate of reduction for several pollutants – such as NMVOCs, PM10 and ammonia – has slowed. The report highlights increasing quantities of domestic wood burning as a factor in flatlining PM10 emission levels.
Launched alongside Defra’s consultation on draft air quality plans for the UK which also started this week (see AirQualityNews.com story
), the Scottish Government’s six-week consultation runs until November 9 2015.
September 2015. Outdoor gas and propane gas fireplaces to be allowed in Port Colborne, but not wood. Many councillors said that they received more comments from residents that were against allowing open-air burning, and that many of those residents cited health and safety issues ... overruling idea that health and safety ought to come first prevailed, and council noted it is difficult to create a bylaw that would deal with people who are simply inconsiderate.
September 2015. Despite Stricter Air Standards, US residents still dying from air pollution.
The survey of more than 500,000 Americans shows that as air pollution levels rise in the areas where they live, rates of death rise ... Every extra 10 ug/m3 PM2.5 raised the risk of heart death by 10% and overall death by 3%, according to the study published in the government journal Environmental Health Perspectives
. "We need to better inform policymakers about the types and sources of particulate pollution so they know where to focus regulations,
" said Richard Hayes, a professor of population health and environmental medicine at NYU Langone.
September 2015. Are cheap sensors and concerned citizens leading to a shift in air monitoring?
Responding to an explosion of low-cost, easy-to-use sensors to monitor air quality in recent years, US EPA scientists are studying the accuracy of these “next-generation air monitors,” and how the data collected might be used to improve communities and, eventually, affect how air quality is monitored and regulated
September 2015. Guest editorial: Wood burning -- it's time to let it go
. Article by Dr. Brian Moench, President, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. "Recently Summit County took a bite out of tradition and a bite out of air pollution and approved a bold new ordinance that would prohibit solid fuel burning devices (think wood and coal in stoves and fireplaces) in new construction. This is an important step forward to cleaning our air, and we will all be better off for it. ... If you don't smoke, burning wood is probably the worst thing you can do to your own health. As Elsa sings in the movie Frozen, it's time to "Let it go.
September 2015. Sacramento Metropolitan AQMD Receives Federal Grant to Study Toxic Pollutants From Wood Smoke in Sacramento
. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District (SMAQMD) a $360,000 grant to study toxic pollutants from wood smoke in Sacramento.
Residential wood smoke is Sacramento’s main source of wintertime air pollution and it is suspected to be the main source of some hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), including acetaldehyde, acrolein, acetonitrile, and naphthalene. This study, to be conducted during one winter season beginning in November 2016, will provide a better understanding of air toxics from wood smoke and wood burning behavior in select environmental justice communities based on federal environmental justice data.
September 2015. Rebates boosted to get more wood-fuelled heaters replaced in Canberra.
"The Government has increased the rebate from $800 for a gas-ducted system to $1,100, so it's quite a sizeable inducement to remove those old wood heaters ..."And for a single gas appliance replacing a wood heater it is $600." ... Wood smoke is a serious health problem for people with lung or heart conditions, particularly in the Tuggeranong Valley where the smoke becomes trapped under an inversion layer on cold nights
Shane Rattenbury called for the scheme to be extended to electric heating. "Mr Rattenbury cited research from Melbourne University's Melbourne Energy Institute released last week, showing how the use of electric split-systems for heating was cheaper than using gas. The savings come as gas prices rise in eastern Australia. By encouraging people to get onto gas now, we are ensuring that they will be the victim of predicted high gas price over the next five years," he said. "But by encouraging people to go electric now, we know they will be running on renewables in five years."
Switching off gas - An examination of declining gas demand in Eastern Australia.
Report by Tim Forcey - Energy Advisor, Melbourne Energy Institute (MEI). The second page of the Executive summary (page 5) states: " Space-heating cost savings of $1,733/year (a savings of 77%) were modeled for a large home in Canberra and $658/year (63%) for a large home in Melbourne
." Details are provided in Table 7 (page 24) showing gas heating for a large house in Canberra $2,255 compared to $522 for an efficient reverse cycle heater-air-conditioner. Expected costs for a medium-sized house in Orange, NSW are $1370 for gas and $949 for an efficient heater-air-conditioner.
Mummies know best: the pharaohs giving up their secrets about heart disease.
"Thomas and Finch suspect that pre-modern heart disease was caused not simply by genes or ageing, but by another risk factor, one that modern societies no longer face: widespread chronic infection. .... Such infections can significantly increase levels of inflammation in the body – and, in recent years, researchers have increasingly realised that inflammation can damage the cardiovascular system. In fact, inflammation appears to be the same mechanism through which obesity, unhealthy diet, and sedentary living also cause heart problems. On top of this, pre-modern people probably faced another serious trigger for inflammation: smoke from wood fires used for cooking, heating and lighting. So it is possible that ancient Egyptians, Peruvians, and others had the same illness as modern people – inflammation-induced heart disease – but with different root causes."
Wood stoves: Health risks from pollution outweigh ambiance. The Summit County Council has drawn a line in the smoke. Last week four of the board's five members voted in favor of banning wood stoves in new construction.
An important message from the National Blood, Lung and Heart Institute. "Even being next to a fireplace or fire pit this summer can aggravate your COPD."
August 2015. Limited moratorium on beach fires passed.
"wood smoke is worse than cigarette smoke on a person’s health. Wood smoke particulates, Burnett said, can become embedded deep in the lungs and get into the blood stream, which can cause life-threatening diseases." "Carmel, in imposing the ban, becomes the last city on the Monterey Peninsula to ban or severely limit beach fires. Statewide, Mayor Pro Tempore Ken Talmage pointed out, only 38 of 435 beaches allow fires."
July 2015. Fine Hunter valley mine fined over toxic blast plume - money will be used fund wood smoke reduction "The penalty will be paid to Muswellbrook Council to fund its Wood Smoke Reduction program aimed at improving local air quality."
July 2015. Pollution from wood heaters has prompted dozens of complaints in Monash in the past five years.
Mt Waverley father-of-two Douglas Crosher wants wood heaters banned after putting up with smoke from a nearby property for the past eight years. Mr Crosher said he was concerned about the health effects of smoke on his family and bothered by the sheer nuisance of smoke permeating his house.Mr Crosher has urged other residents concerned by pollution from wood heaters to register their complaint with the council and contact him via his website at woodsmokefree.com
July 2015. In-principle agreement to move to 7 µg/m3 and 20 µg/m3 PM2.5 in the longer term
"In recognising the health impacts of airborne particles, it is our intent to strengthen the reporting standards for particles (PM2.5 and PM10) in the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure. We agreed in-principle to adopt annual average and daily PM2.5 reporting standards of 8 µg/m3 and 25 µg/m3, respectively, with a move to 7 µg/m3 and 20 µg/m3 in the longer term."
July 2015. Summit County proposes to prohibit wood-burning stoves.
The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission recommended last week to permanently ban all wood-burning appliances from any new construction or remodeling.
"Unlike most other sources of pollution, home wood-burning emissions are released directly into the area where people spend most of their time at an elevation that does not promote dispersion," he wrote the commission, adding that it is almost impossible to prevent wood-smoke pollution from seeping into nearby homes."
"The common belief is it's from cars. But it's not. It's wood burning."
Statistics from state and federal environmental studies submitted to the commission last week paint a grim picture.
Monitoring stations can miss that a neighbor burning wood might increase pollution by 100 times in the house next door.
One fireplace burning 10 pounds of wood for an hour fouls the air worse than 120,000 cigarettes.
Health professionals must explain this to policymakers, so that—instead of repeating past mistakes—future policies use the best, most cost effective ways to minimise damage to public health from air pollution.
July 2015. Lisa Neville: Please Help Stop Wood-smoke Impacting on My Already Inflamed Airways
Michellina van Loder, Professional Writer, Author, Journalist, Blogger
"Each winter, my health is impacted on by my neighbours’ wood-smoke from their wood heaters. Not only does the woodsmoke make me ill for days at a time but it also makes my life and that of my family’s difficult: we have to seal our windows with masking tape to keep the smoke out; we can’t run the exhausts fans in the bathroom unless someone outside the bathroom can tape up and seal cracks around the door due to the backdraft of woodsmoke that comes in; some nights, I have to sleep with a 3M filter mask over my face to protect my airways; we can’t leave our washing outside, nor can we go outside for long—most days, I can’t go outside at all—because the wood-smoke particles permeate into our hair and clothing, effecting my airways when we come in .... "
July 2015. Interview with Dr. Brian Moench, President, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment
, who has been speaking out on the connection between pollution and health since 2007. Dr. Brian Moench says we can get worked up all we want when it comes to big polluters, but the trend of backyard fire pits is just as worrisome:
July 2015. Smoke from open cooking fires kill 4 million people each year
. One organization that's trying to make a difference in this issue is Dazin, which is a cooperative in Bhutan (though the same model could work in many other regions), a country with one of the highest rates of per capita firewood consumption in the world.
June 2015. PM2.5 pollution linked to reduced white matter in the brain: “Our study provides convincing evidence
that several parts of the aging brain, especially the white matter, are an important target of neurotoxic effects induced by long-term exposures to fine particles in the air,” said the study’s lead author, Jiu-Chiuan Chen, an associate professor of at the USC Keck medical school.
June 2015. New York City Council approves legislation to update the city’s air code and help control pollution.
The bill will regulate the use of charbroilers in restaurants, end the use of all future fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, and prohibit new buildings from using wood as a source of heat except in the case of emergencies. Buildings with fireplaces and wood stoves would be required to use a specially treated type of wood that does not release as much ash into the air. The bill was approved by a vote of 48-2. See also City Council passes regulations for cleaner air
. Outdoor particulate air pollution results in 3.2 million premature deaths annually
, more than the combined impact of HIV-AIDS and malaria. Improving air quality could potentially avoid millions of pollution-related deaths each year. That finding comes from a team of environmental engineering and public health researchers who developed a global model of how changes in outdoor air pollution could lead to changes in the rates of health problems such as heart attack, stroke and lung cancer. One of the study’s unexpected findings is that cleaning air in less polluted parts of the world, including in North America and Western Europe, can have as much health benefit as similar measures taken in the most polluted areas.
June 2015. Climate Spectator: Australia is suffering a spate of solar-related fires, hundreds of them. The cause of these fires isn’t the solar panels themselves but, rather, a device installed next to solar panels called a rooftop DC isolator (or disconnect) switch – a uniquely Australian requirement. ... Despite the lack of fires or any demonstrable harm from solar panels themselves, and in spite of the evidence showing the fire risk from DC switches, Standards Australia moved to mandate the rooftop DC switch nationwide in 2012, in the name of fire safety.
During the standards-drafting process, Standards New Zealand sought an exemption from the rooftop DC isolator requirement, calling it a stupid idea. The rift eventually led to Australia-only and New Zealand-only sections of the standard.
Germany, itself a world leader in solar electricity, once required a practice similar to Australia’s rooftop DC isolator requirement but eventually stopped, because it was causing too many fires. The Germans found that placing DC switches in exposed places creates a degenerative process that, without regular maintenance, causes the switches to heat up, and eventually, to catch fire – even the high-quality German ones. ... Now Australia has become a new kind of leader in the solar PV industry. As of November 2014, there have been more than 167 fires in Queensland alone – all related to the rooftop DC isolator.
June 2015. Fine Particulate Air Pollution Associated with Increased Risk of Childhood Autism.
University of Pittsburgh research: "Based on the child’s exposure to concentrations of PM2.5 during the mother’s pregnancy and the first two years of life, the Pitt Public Health team found that children who fell into higher exposure groups were at an approximate 1.5-fold greater risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder (
ASD) after accounting for other factors associated with the child’s risk for ASD – such as the mother’s age, education and smoking during pregnancy. This risk estimate is in agreement with several other recent investigations of PM2.5
and autism." Peer-reviewed scientific paper.
May 2015. New research on the health problems caused by PM2.5 exposure:
Particulate Air Pollution Linked To Increased Mortality Rates, Even At Low Concentrations.
of the country is either meeting the EPA standards now, or is
expected to meet them in a few years as new power plant controls kick
in,” noted professor of environmental epidemiology, Joel Schwartz,
in a recent press release. “This study shows that is not enough. We
need to go after coal plants that still aren’t using scrubbers to
clean their emissions, as well as other sources of particles like
traffic and wood smoke.”
For every 10 ug/m3 of annual PM2.5 exposure, mortality increased by 7-9% and by 2.14^% for every 10 ug/m3 increase in exposure on the current of previous day. When the analysis was limited to people in areas that satisfied the current WHO guideline of 10 ug/m3, death rates were estimated to increase by 9.3% per 10 ug/m3 increase in PM2.5 exposure. Similarly, the increase in mortality on days complying with the US PM2.5 daily air quality standard remained unchanged at 2.14% per 10 ug/m3 increase in PM2.5 exposure on the current and previous day.
Long-term PM2.5 Exposure and Neurological Hospital Admissions in the Northeastern United States.
For every 1 ug/m3 increase in PM2.5 exposure, researchers found the risk of dementia increased by 8%, the risk of Alzheimer's disease increased by 15% and the risk of Parkinson’s diseases increased by 8%.
Holding Your Breath in India. "Before coming to Delhi, Bram had had a couple of breathing episodes that doctors assured us he would most likely outgrow. Now he has full-blown asthma and must take powerful daily medications ...There is a growing expatriate literature, mostly out of China, describing the horrors of air pollution, the dangers to children and the increasingly desperate measures taken for protection. These accounts mostly end with the writers deciding to remain despite the horrors. Not this one. We are moving back to Washington this week.
World Health Assembly closes, passing resolutions on air pollution and epilepsy. Delegates at the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution to address the health impacts of air pollution – the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Every year 4.3 million deaths occur from exposure to indoor air pollution and 3.7 million deaths are attributable to outdoor air pollution ...At the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly, WHO will propose a road map for an enhanced global response by the health sector that reduces the adverse health effects of air pollution.
Burning driftwood makes dangerous smoke.
"Re: “Beach fires a safe and fun tradition,” letter, June 2.
Fond memories of beach fires? How romantic. How dangerous!
The letter-writer is obviously unaware of the dangers of burning salt-contaminated wood. Highly persistent and carcinogenic dioxins and furans are produced when materials containing chlorine, such as salt-laden driftwood, are burned by incomplete combustion.
I encourage anyone who is thinking of using salt contaminated driftwood as a fuel for beach fires, fireplaces or anything else to go to sources such as the Mother Earth News article dated March 30, 2009, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment website or the B.C. Lung Association website.
The lung association says it best: “Never burn wood that has been taken from salt water. Chlorine combines with the smoke to produce dioxins and furans, which are dangerous carcinogens.”
Kel Hicke, Saanich
May 2015. Regulatory action puts wood smoke pollution in the spotlight. Article by Tracey Gant, Sierra Club, explaining that EPA-certified wood stoves aren’t the answer to woodsmoke pollution. "In a home that uses a fireplace for ambience, a gas log set reduces air pollution with minimal energy use. In a home that uses a woodstove for heat, technological innovations have created a compelling alternative: electric ductless mini-split heat pumps. Ductless heat pumps are more energy efficient than heating with natural gas or other fuels. They produce no local emissions, and their low energy usage makes them ideal for running off of solar panels, allowing for net-zero-energy-use homes. And that’s the kind of house anyone could feel proud to call home.
The Sierra Club supports the efforts of the Air District to transition away from wood-burning devices that cause unhealthy and dangerous air pollution
Sierra Club Wants Action on Air. The Sierra Club and Physicians for Social Responsibility sued the EPA in Federal Court on Wednesday, under the Clean Air Act Wednesday, 20 May 2015 under the Clean Air Act. "It's important that the EPA does its job on time because these plans are one of the only ways that areas can clean up their air. Folks are frustrated, and the environmental groups have filed suit to make sure the EPA is pushing along on this road map for clean air in Los Angeles."
May 2015. Decade-long study wins Heinz Award after findings include link between air pollution, obesity.
Dr. Perera’s research tracked the pre- and post-natal health of 720 mother-child pairs in New York City.
She found that in addition to causing infant mortality, low birth weight, allergies, asthma, slower brain development and respiratory illnesses, there is also a correlation between exposure to air pollutants and childhood obesity.
Dr. Perera, who founded and is the director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, said Pittsburgh’s air quality remains a serious public health problem for regional residents, and noted that the region is the sixth worst nationally for airborne particle pollution.
“We are concerned about pre-natal exposures because they can cause greater absorption and retention of toxics in the developing child,” she said. “Because such children have immature biological defenses against exposures, chronic diseases that affect someone later in life can be seeded.”
She was joined at the Wednesday event by Philip Johnson, Heinz Endowments director for science and environment, who said the region’s industrial and mobile sources, along with residential woodburning, are producing some of the most polluted air in the nation.
May 2015. Wood Smoke Harms Your Lungs. Updated article for the Australian Lung Foundation, by Dr James Markos, Respiratory Physician, Launceston General Hospital and Lung Foundation Australia State Chair Tasmania. "We should all try to keep our air clean and one important way to achieve this is by not burning wood."
May 2015. Young trees targeted as firewood warning issued
. As the government also warned Canberrans against the illegal collection of firewood, they reported 400 young trees on public land had been vandalised or stolen this financial year.
April 2015. Long-term exposure to air pollution may harm your brain Fine particle air pollution – smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) – may be the most common and hazardous type of air pollution. It comes from burning wood or coal, car exhaust and other sources.
“Long-term exposure to air pollution showed harmful effects on the brain in this study, even at low levels, particularly with older people and even those who are relatively healthy,”
During 1995-2005, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the effect of long-term exposure to air pollution on markers of brain structure. They found a 2 microgram per cubic meter of air (μg/m3) increase in PM2.5, a range commonly observed across a metropolitan region, was associated with a 0.32 percent smaller total cerebral brain volume and a 46 percent higher risk of covert brain infarcts, a type of silent stroke.
"Fine particulate matter affects more people than any other pollutant, with chronic exposure causing the most deaths from serious disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)."
Air pollution could increase risk of dementia The study, published in the journal Stroke, found that small increases in air pollution – an increase of only two microgram per cubic meter of air, to levels commonly found in cities, was sufficient to increase the risks ... Professor of Neurology Dr Sudha Seshadri at Boston University School of Medicine said: "On average participants who lived in more polluted areas had the brain volume of someone a year older than participants who lived in less polluted areas. "They also had a 46 per cent higher risk of silent strokes. This is concerning since we know that silent strokes increase the risk of overt strokes and of developing dementia, walking problems and depression.”
April 2015. Clean Air Society Australia New Zealand submission: Working Towards a National Clean Air Agreement
Discussion Paper. CASANZ's submission includes the following discussion on woodsmoke:
Summary: CASANZ strongly supports the reduction and control of emissions from domestic solid fuel heaters.
The apparent inability of even compliant heaters to be operated without affecting neighbouring air
quality has led to a call from some members for serious consideration to be given to banning their sale
and operation, at least in some areas.
Main Text: WOODSMOKE: CASANZ notes and supports the emphasis on finalising measures relating to fine particle issues, particularly
in relation to wood smoke. Some estimates put the adverse health costs of residential wood smoke at
$8 billion for NSW alone and about $20-24 billion nationally. We support the action proposed for the
Agreement to implement lower emission standards for new wood heaters. However, there is also need to
take action on existing non-compliant heaters, which would otherwise remain a problem for potentially a long
The problem with emissions from domestic wood heaters is complex. Clearly, design of the heater is an
important aspect of emissions performance. Other important aspects include operation and maintenance of
the heater, quality of the fuel, enforcement of standards, and enforcement of heater operation requirements. Further, CASANZ notes that heater emissions measured under “real world” operating conditions can be
several times higher than those measured under the standards measurement protocol.
There are obviously jurisdictional issues relating to standards, measurement protocols, and controls which
could need to be formalised in some form of agreement or memorandum of understanding. There clearly
remains a resourcing issue at both the local government and state level, particularly in enforcement, that
should be addressed, and the related issue with open fire places.
Despite standards having been applied over several decades, air pollution problems from domestic wood
heating remain. CASANZ’s view is that action to ban domestic solid fuel burning for domestic heating should
be seriously considered, particularly where the meteorology is such that people will be adversely affected.
This would involve prohibition on sale of new heaters, phase-out of the operation of existing heaters, and
modification of residential building codes in relation to open fire places. From a regulatory viewpoint, this
would be highly efficient and cost effective method of reducing particle pollution from domestic woodheaters.
Clearly, philosophical and political aspects would need addressed for implementation, but conceptually this
is straight forward, and operation simple to enforce. A similar approach operates in some places overseas
for example Christchurch in New Zealand, and Montreal in Canada.
April 2015. Moench: Air pollution’s effect on pregnant women and newborns is undeniable. "Hundreds of studies have been published confirming air pollution as a threat to the viability of a pregnancy and to the healthy development of the human embryo. Air pollution triggers the same harmful inflammatory cascade, and disease outcomes, as you would expect from diluted cigarette smoke. That's no surprise because chemically it is very similar. All organs can be affected, including what most people might consider their favorite ones — heart, lungs, brain and, in the case of a pregnant mother, the placenta and fetus."
March 2015. Burnt food smoke risk to unborn babies: Fumes found to disrupt development of part of brain linked to intelligence and behaviour
March 2015. Cleaner air means healthier kids As air quality has improved in the notoriously smoggy Los Angeles area, so has the health of children's lungs, according to a long-running study of 2,120 children published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.
March 2015. Fresno Bee: New wood-burning rules: Less smoke, possibly more confusion. The San Joaquin Valley’s air was cleaner this winter — maybe because it was a little stormier, foggier and breezier. Or maybe some people avoided their fireplaces because they were confused by the new wood-burning rules.
March 2015. Bathurst Council losing smoke pollution battle.
DESPITE the very best efforts of Bathurst Regional Council, it appears efforts to reduce local air pollution from smoky fireplaces is proving an impossible battle to win.The number of new wood heaters being installed in existing or new houses far outnumbers those being removed. “Due to the increased uptake of new woodheaters, the NSW EPA has indicated that the (woodsmoke-reduction) funding into the future will not continue in its current guise.”
Feb 2015. Ten Things You Need to Know if You Burn Wood Josh Schlossberg's informative article reproduced in the Harvard Square Edition. Respiratory Problems - Carcinogenic - Toxic Chemicals - Worse Than Cigarettes - Exceeds Federal Standards - Smoke Enters Homes - EPA Stoves Not Much Better - Doctors Want Ban - Taxpayer Subsidized - Alternatives to Burning
Feb 2015 Exposure to small particle pollution linked to heart-disease death
Data from about 8,000 women living in the Sacramento metropolitan area were used in a major study that linked death from heart disease to exposure to soot found in car exhaust, cooking smoke and diesel pollution. The OEHHA study is one of the first to look at the long-term effects of ultrafine particles – tiny particles that are a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair, and tiny enough to pass through lung tissue and into the bloodstream.
Feb 2015. Wood Stove Smoke Is Killing Us. Winter cold has set in, and smoke curls skyward from my neighbor's chimney. Once, I would have found that charming. No longer.
Now I know that his smoke is making me sick. For starters, wood smoke causes heart disease, irregular heartbeat, lung cancer, and emphysema. I'm not alone in waking up to these hazards: Cities from Paris to Montreal to Tacoma are responding with restrictions aimed at wood-burning.
Feb 2015. Hundreds of Utahns in 4 cities rally for clean air. "Wood-burning happens in neighborhoods. That's where the homes are and that's where we live," Carrie Marsh, of Bountiful, said. "It's in our house. It's in our clothes. There's really no escaping it." .. "I'm concerned about bad air, yes," he said. "For my health and my kids' health, there's nothing more important."
Feb 2015. Ozone, Particulate Matter, and Newly Diagnosed Alzheimer's Disease: A Population-Based Cohort Study in Taiwan
"These findings suggest long-term exposure to O3
above the current US EPA standards are associated with increased the risk of Alzheimer's disease."
Feb 2015. Chilean research: Health effects of air pollution worse in cities where woodsmoke is the main source of pollution than cities with multiple sources of pollution. "These results demonstrate that there is greater risk when people are exposed to air polluted with wood smoke."
Feb 2015. ABC Catalyst, Lead Astray. "there this compelling increase in crime rates from 1960 to 1990. The rate of violent crime in the United States quadrupled over this period. And right around the early to mid-1990s the violent crime rate began to tumble. And it fell suddenly, rapidly and unexpectedly.
"Among all the possible explanations came a seemingly absurd proposition that the late-20 century crime wave was not so much a factor of changing economics, drug use or police tactics...
"..but the mass-scale exposure of young children to one specific element... ..lead. From leaded petrol emissions." ...
"Perhaps the biggest crime associated with lead is that it was known to have serious toxic effects long before it was added to petrol"
This is yet another example of why, when there is clear evidence of the harmful effects of air pollution, it is inadvisable to all that pollution to continue when there are affordable alternatives that are much cleaner.
Jan 2015. Why your fireplace is ruining the environment. Air districts in California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and in China and Greece are asking the public not to burn wood. While it may seem a low-tech solution, it is a less expensive way to cut air emissions, said Philip Fine, SCAQMD assistant deputy executive officer ..
All the attention given to PM2.5 in the last several years is a result of success controlling other pollutants from factories, refineries, paints/coatings and automobiles, he said, but still not meeting clean air standards. “We’ve spent 50 years trying to control air emissions from every source, but this one (domestic wood burning) has gone unregulated,” Lyou said.
Jan 2015. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Where there's smoke there's respiratory risk.
Experts say both doctors and the public should be more aware of the associated potential health hazard.
Jan 2015 Pollutionwatch: Please don’t keep the home fires burning
Article in the Guardian by UK research scientist Gary Fuller
Between Christmas and New Year traffic pollution declined in the early evening, but airborne particles continued to increase until just before midnight, indicative of smoke from household fires. This was especially apparent across the south in Bristol, Eastbourne, Oxford and Reading and also in Cardiff, Southampton and parts of London. In Eastbourne particle concentrations quadrupled each evening; in Bristol they increased by more than five times.
Domestic wood burning takes place where people live, at the times
when everyone else is at home. Even modest wood burning in densely
populated areas can lead to harmful pollution exposures
comparable to those from traffic. Home wood burning needs to be
addressed before more people invest in stoves or make open fires a
feature in their living rooms.
Jan 2015. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment give 17 reasons to ban wood burning: 1. All pollution is not created equal. Wood smoke is the most toxic type of pollution in most cities, more dangerous than auto pollution and most industrial pollution. Lighting a wood fire in your house is like starting up your own toxic incinerator ...
Jan 2015. Wood-burning stoves in pollution shock. Trendy families in the Midlands are fuelling air pollution by buying WOOD-BURNING STOVES. The fad is supposed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by using the ‘greenest’ of all fuels.But scientists have discovered that burning wood in stoves, boilers and open fires is as bad as having a car with older-generation ‘dirty’ diesel engines.
“Even modest domestic wood-burning may lead to particulate exposures
comparable to those from traffic sources. We need to manage urban
emissions to ensure that increased wood-burning does not offset schemes
to reduce traffic pollution.”
"Air pollution is one of the greatest
public health issues of modern times, causing some 60,000 premature
deaths a year in the UK, half of them attributable to particulates."
Jan 2015. Wood-burning a toxic air pollutant. Residents are making effort to carpool and politicians are pushing for stricter regulations, but something they are doing inside could be causing more damage.
“Wood burning is a bigger issue than any of us have known, here in Utah specifically,” said Erin Mendenhall, Breathe Utah. “Wood burning is accounting for as much direct PM2.5 as our cars and trucks are.” Dr. Brian Moench with the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment says that wood smoke and industrial admissions are the most toxic types of air pollution, which can have an impact on our health.
“People should understand that when they are burning wood in their own home, they are not only creating a toxic environment for their own family, but because those particles are exceedingly small, they seep seamlessly into neighbors’ homes and affect the health of your neighbors as well,” Moench said.
Dec 2014. Submissions on Australia's Ambient Air Quality NEPM show overwhelming
public support for stricter air pollution standards - PM2.5 standards of 6
ug/m3 (annual) and 20 ug/m3 (daily max); PM10 standards of 40 ug/m3
(daily max) and 20 ug/m3 (annual average). Many
submissions called for the standards to be adopted immediately. An
annual PM2.5 standard of 6ug/m3 would save 700 lives per year - every day of avoided delay would prevent about 2 more premature deaths.
Dec 2014. Wood burning fires to be completely banned in Paris.
Wood burning has already been banned in Paris since 2007 as the main source of heating, but has been tolerated for occasional use .... The complete prohibition is a direct result of trying to reduce the concentration of fine particles levels in Paris (PM10 particles of diameter less than 10 microns). Wood burning currently contributes 23% of the PM10 levels in the Ile-de-France department, the same as vehicles.
Dec 2014. State considers banning wood burning from November 1 to March 15 ...
"wood burning emits particulate pollution at a far greater rate than equivalent amounts of energy expended in modern automobile engines, industrial plants and other contributors to the infamous annual inversion in Utah’s most populous Northern Valleys."
State seeks input on proposed wood smoke ban
An outright prohibition on wood burning during the notorious inversion
season (from November to March) along the Wasatch Front and in Cache Valley is under
consideration by Utah pollution regulators ..
Nov 2014. Peer-reviewed article in Air Quality and Climate Change - Woodsmoke: Regulatory failure is damaging public health
Nov 2014. American Lung Association in California Cautions Against Wood-Burning and Urges Cleaner Alternatives for Winter Heat:
There is no safe level of PM2.5 pollution. Adopting all economically feasible measures (including the woodsmoke-control measures recommended by the NSW Asthma Foundation) would allow stricter limits of 6 μg/m3 annual average PM2.5 and 20 μg/m3 daily average, saving about 700 lives per year. On average, every day bureaucratic delay results in another 2 unnecessary premature deaths.
the American Lung Association in California is urging the public to avoid wood burning and to consider cleaner burning alternatives.
"Burning wood emits harmful toxins and fine particles into the air that can worsen asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
"Breathing particle pollution – or soot –can shorten life and send those most at risk to the emergency room,” said Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, researcher and volunteer physician for the American Lung Association in California. “Wood smoke particles are so small, they can bypass the airway defenses and enter directly into the lung and bloodstream and can cause damage to cells, and lead to lung disease and heart attacks.”
"As with any pollution, children are especially at risk. Their lungs do not fully form until the age of 18 and exposure to higher levels of wood smoke can lead to reduced lung function and risk of future lung disease. For children with asthma, breathing wood smoke can lead to serious asthma attacks and breathing emergencies."
Sept 2014. NEPC Consultation on proposed PM2.5 and PM10 standards.
Everyone concerned about the health effects of air pollution should comment before the 10 Oct closing date. Residents of capital cities (and Morwell) should consider consider attending a public meeting: attending a public meeting (see RH column for locations)
The true net benefits of
adopting the economically feasible measures are at least $24 billion, not the
claimed $.8.8 billion.
would generate an estimated $15 billion in net benefits (from woodsmoke-control)
were omitted from the economic analysis, implying that the NEPC did not
consider all economically feasible measures.
Sept 2014. Visiting Doctor Warns of Smoke Dangers:
A Utah based doctor is warning Fairbanks residents about the dangers of
smoky air. As KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, Doctor Brian Moench (MENCH),
who scheduled to speak in Fairbanks tomorrow (Sat.), cites medical
research and his own experience in a Salt Lake City hospital, to paint a
dire picture of the health impacts of fine particulate pollution.
Sept 2014. ABC NSW 7:30 Report interview with NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay saying that, for PM2.5 (the most hazardous air pollutant), over 50% of PM2.5 comes from open fires (and domestic wood heating), but only 7% from cars and trucks.
Sept 2014. Dr. Brian Moench, M.D., President of Utah Physician's for a Healthy Environment gives an excellent overview of the health and environmental hazards of wood smoke pollution
July 2014. State'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 as an option to control wood smoke.
July 2014. Wood smoke warning issued to asthmatics
"Wood heaters produce more pollution than
either tobacco or motor vehicles during the winter months, according to
the Asthma Foundation NSW.
Michele Goldman said the average new wood heater in cold areas emitted
as much pollution as 370 new diesel SUVs each travelling 20,000 km per
"The NSW Government has passed responsibility for this urgent and
pressing health concern to ill-equipped local councils when it has a
number of cost neutral options that could dramatically reduce winter
pollution levels and drastically reduce the health bill," Ms Goldman
July 2014 Daughter of carbon monoxide poisoning victims pleads for wood heater awareness:
“They were such senseless deaths." According
to the Firewood Association of Australia, even in a correctly operated
wood heater or fireplace, some of the combustion gases will condense on
the inside of the flue or chimney as a black tar-like substance called
June 2014 Asthma Foundation NSW Calls For Action on Wood Heater
In previous submissions to the NSW Government on the wood heaters
issue, Asthma Foundation made three key recommendations that together
would reduce wood smoke health costs by 75%:
- Removal of existing heaters that do not meet a health-based standard when houses are offered for sale.
- Not allowing the installation of
new heaters that do not meet a health-based standard and a tax on all
wood heaters that do not meet current standards.
- Licensing fees to cover the cost
of wood smoke-reduction programs with assistance for people whose
health or lifestyle has been affected by wood smoke.
June 2014 Wood fire heaters: the hidden killer
Article in the SMH
and Age by Heath Gilmore.
"The air pollution from wood fire heaters now poses a bigger immediate health danger to Sydneysiders than cars or cigarettes.
"Health experts say the growth in wood fire heaters and the
resulting smoke accounts for more than 60 per cent of Sydney's winter
air pollution, triggering complications among asthmatics, emphysema and
chronic bronchitis sufferers.
"Asthma Foundation CEO Michele Goldman said Australians should be alarmed by the dangers posed by wood fire heaters ....Ms Goldman said the Standards Australia committee had so far had failed
to take into consideration the concerns of health groups . She said the
committee was dominated by the wood fire heating sector and industry
groups with no medical experts among its membership.
Australian Lung Foundation spokesman Dr James Markos said wood fire
heaters should be banned from urban areas. He said real-life emissions
from new wood-heaters had little relationship to measurements from a
perfectly operated test model under laboratory conditions. "There is no safe level of wood fire smoke in urban areas," he said.
Note that only 4.3% of Sydney households use wood as the main form of heating. It takes only a small proportion of households with woodheaters to cause a major pollution problem.
June 2014 Smoke from a poorly maintained wood fire flue has been determined as the cause of a couple's death last August.
"A coroner's report has shown that the
tragic death of an elderly Cowra couple in August last year was the
result of carbon monoxide poisoning." ...
According to the report the deaths, which occurred in the lounge room of
the Hanna Street home .... were the result of carbon monoxide from a
poorly maintained wood heater."
June 2014 Autism and schizophrenia linked to air pollution
A study by the University of Rochester Medical Center looked at the
impacts of air pollution on mice, finding that exposure in early life
produces harmful changes in their brains, including an enlargement of
part of the brain that is seen in humans who have autism and
schizophrenia. The peer-reviewed article
explains that mice were exposed to ultrafine pollution of < 0.1 microns. About 50%
of woodsmoke particles are less than 0.3 microns and a large proportion
of these would be less than 0.1 microns, so breathing woodsmoke at the levels experienced in many residential areas is likely to have a significantly increase the risk of being affected by these problems. Other research has linked exposure to woodsmoke or PAH (the main toxins in woodsmoke) to genetic damage in babies, reduced IQ when children start school and behavioural problems such as anxiety or attention deficit
May 2014 Notice of Intention to Vary the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure The NEPC gives notice that it intends to make a variation to the Ambient Air Quality NEPM in relation to the standards for particles. This variation will reflect latest scientific understanding and will allow for an adequate level of health protection against the impacts of particle air pollution for the Australian community.
May 2014 Air Pollution Is Lowering The IQs-And Earning Potential--Of New York City Children
"Prenatal exposure to pollution correlated with developmental delays at
age 3, fewer IQ points at age 5, and behavior problems at 7-years-old ... when they factored in the well-documented relationship between IQ and
future earnings, the researchers calculated that if the city decreased
PAH pollution by a quarter, each child could earn an additional $3,382
on average." See also the peer-reviewed journal paper.
May 2014 Four Ways Pollution Harms Kids the Most
1. Weakening Lungs.
2. Enabling Debilitating Muscular Disease
3. Boosting Asthma
4. Decreasing Intelligence
May 2014 A Latrobe Valley resident believes they have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, after using ex-railway sleepers as firewood, which are highly toxic when burnt.
Last week Mr Symons burnt some of the sleepers
in his indoor wood heater before his family began complaining of sore
throats and eyes.
"We just used the
sleepers, we didn't use anything else and for five hours our eyes were
burning, our throats were burning," Mr Symons said.
Mr Symons' wife searched the internet for information, she was shocked
to find the sleepers were toxic if burnt and even contained fragments of
asbestos originating from asbestos-made train brakes.
May 2014 Clearing the air - Why Australia urgently needs effective national air pollution laws
World Health Organization Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution – REVIHAAP Project "The scientific conclusions ... about the evidence for a causal link between PM2.5 and adverse health outcomes in human beings have been confirmed and strengthened".
"The current state of scientific knowledge, supported by a large body of new studies, shows a wide range of adverse effects on health associated with exposure to PM2.5 ... The data strongly suggest that these effects: have no threshold within the ambient range studied; follow a mostly linear concentration–response function; and are likely to occur at fairly low levels, close to PM2.5 background concentrations."
As well as confirming the adverse health effects (including cardiovascular disease) from PM2.5 exposure, the WHO report noted that:
4. significantly more insight has been gained into physiological effects and plausible biological mechanisms that link short- and long-term PM2.5 exposure with mortality and morbidity, as observed in epidemiological, clinical and toxicological studies;
5. additional studies linking long-term exposure to PM2.5 to several new health outcomes, including atherosclerosis, adverse birth outcomes and childhood respiratory disease; and
6. emerging evidence that also suggests possible links between long-term PM2.5 exposure and neurodevelopment and cognitive function, as well as other chronic disease conditions, such as diabetes.
April 2014 Simon Corbell urges Canberrans to swap wood heaters for gas systems With the ACT's hottest summer on record just finished, the government
has turned its attention to winter and begun another crackdown on
Canberra's wood heaters
April 2014.Home Firewood Burning responsible for 42% of PM2.5 emissions in Canada in 2011, compared to 8.8% for transportation (road, rail, air marine).
April 2014. 9 minute video of a talk by Dr Brian Moench, President, Utah Physicians for a healthy Environment on health & woodsmoke pollution. Anyone considering a wood heater should see this!
See also the follow-up video What about Woodburning Stoves - where Dr Monech reveals that he is appearing as an expert witness in a lawsuit where a neighbour is suing another neighbour because of the health consequences they have been subjected to because of the neighbour's wood-burning stove. "People can be personally exposed to 100 times more air pollution if your neighbour is burning wood. That's a really powerful effect."
April 2014. Increased PM2.5 exposure of 4.1 ug/m3 during pregnancy increased risk of autism spectrum disorder by 39%. For exposure during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, the increase was about 60%.
These results were from the Harvard University Nurses Health Study. With wintertime (June, July,
August) PM2.5 measurements averaging 31.8 ug/m3 in one Armidale residential area, a 60% increase in risk per 4.13 ug/m3 of exposure during the third trimester would imply a 4.6-fold increase in risk for babies born at the end of
winter. See also the ABC Health Report: Pollution and autism spectrum disorder (7 April 2014).
March 2014. Report highlights emissions impact of London wood burning.
According to the report, the annual mean concentration of PM10 from wood
burning was 1.1 micrograms per cubic metre, which it states is
‘considerably greater’ than the predicted city-wide mean PM10 reduction
of 0.17 from the first two phases of the Low Emission Zone, introduced
to reduce PM10 from traffic sources.
February 2014. Wood fireplaces spiked emergency visits, emissions: report
Wood-burning fireplaces are suspected of driving a spike in
particulate matter emissions and emergency room visits for respiratory
problems in Richmond, according to a Metro Vancouver report.
The regional authority’s air monitoring stations detected a spike
with particulate emissions in Richmond in late November, according to
At the same time, Vancouver Coastal Health noticed a jump in
emergency room visits “due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,”
bronchitis, asthma and other lung conditions. Though authorities can’t
be certain, the wood burning is considered a “significant contributor”
to the visits and emissions spike.
January 2014. Utah's First Wood Smoke Campaign
Breathe Utah is beginning a pilot program designed to help sole-source households convert from wood burning (and other solid fuels) for heat, to natural gas. UCAIR (Utah Clean Air Partnership) is underwriting the cost of a limited number of conversions through a new grant to Breathe Utah, entitled WSAP: Wood Smoke Abatement Program. See also: How does Utah’s bad air hurt our health?
October 2013. Air pollution a leading cause of cancer
The International Agency for Research on Cancer
(IARC) cited data indicating that 223,000 deaths from lung
cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution in 2010, and said there was also
convincing evidence it increases the risk of bladder cancer.
"Our task was to evaluate the air everyone
breathes rather than focus on specific air pollutants," deputy head Dana
Loomis said in a statement. "The results from the reviewed studies
point in the same direction: the risk of developing lung cancer is
significantly increased in people exposed to air pollution."
October 2013. Small minority who burn wood are responsible for much of our pollution
"If you are not a smoker, burning wood is probably the greatest threat
to your health as anything that you do. But it is also a threat to your
neighbors' health, as inappropriate as blowing cigarette smoke in the
face of the passenger in the seat next to you. More than likely your
neighbors are less than enthusiastic about sacrificing their health for
your freedom to burn wood. A civilized society would suggest they
shouldn't have to." Brian Moench, a doctor, is president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
See also: Physicians group targets fireplaces and fuel burning stoves
SALT LAKE CITY — Just as smoking cigarettes in an enclosed public
place is harmful and no longer legal, a group of physicians said burning
wood or coal in a fireplace or stove is a practice that has come and
should go — especially in regions where Utah struggles with air quality. "It is long overdue that we consider putting wood
smoke into the community airshed as inappropriate," said Dr. Brian
Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
October 2013. Utah doctors call for year-round ban on burning wood.
"Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said it’s a necessary action. “We don’t have a lot of options,” he said. “We can accept our air
pollution is not solvable, we can stop driving all our cars, we can tell
industry to shut down, or we can stop burning wood.”
Research done during a winter inversion period shows that wood
burning in stoves, fireplaces, and grills produce as much particulate
pollution as all of the cars we have on the roads. The findings also
show the toxic chemicals in wood smoke is just as bad, if not worse,
than second-hand cigarette smoke. The research also shows that prenatal
exposure to wood smoke can impact the health of the baby and generations
Doctors said, in addition to the poor carbon footprint, the health hazards from wood smoke are severe.
“The particles from wood smoke are so small that you really can’t
escape them, no matter what building you go into or what home or
whatever,” Moench said. “It seeps almost seamlessly in virtually every
edifice that we have. The second thing is, because it’s so small, it
then gets breathed deeply into the lungs and then gets distributed
throughout the body. The third thing is wood smoke has attached to it
some of the most toxic chemicals that there are.”
The accompanying video reports that there are about 270 homes relying on wood heating - yet woodsmoke is causing as much pollution as all Salt Latk City's cars! See also: Utah Doctors Prioritize Health: Propose Elimination of Wood Stoves
September 2013. Oil Industry and Household Stoves Speed Arctic Thaw. Gas flaring by the oil industry and smoke from residential burning
contributes more black carbon pollution to Arctic than previously
thought -- potentially speeding the melting of Arctic sea ice and
contributing to the fast rate of warming in the region.
The new study, published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics by researchers at IIASA and in Norway, Finland, and Russia, finds that gas flaring from oil extraction in the Arctic accounts for 42% of the black carbon concentrations in the Arctic ..
The researchers also found that residential combustion emissions play a greater role in black carbon pollution than previously estimated, after they incorporated seasonal differences in emissions into the model ...
The warming effect of black carbon on ice and snow has been suggested as one factor contributing to the relatively fast warming of the Arctic compared to the rest of the world. Arctic sea ice has declined faster than climate models predict, hitting new record lows in 2007 and 2012. See our Greenhouse Gas page for information about the severe impact of melting permafrost on the Earth's climate
August 2013. Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces to be phased out in Montreal by 2021.
Josée Duplessis, head of Montreal’s executive committee, said "We know now that heating with wood has a direct impact on the quality of air and, as a consequence, the health of Montrealers. It is not a myth but a well-documented phenomenon. City and health officials explained that wood burning leads to smog days during winter, premature deaths, hospital admissions and problems for the very young".
Norman King, an epidemiologist with the Montreal Public Health Board’s urban environment and health section, said that about 1,000 Montrealers a year have their lives cut short by months or years because of fine particulate matter pollution.
City counsellor Alan DeSousa explained "at first people didn’t know about the health impacts that these fine particles have, especially on those with respiratory diseases
." Now that people understand the harm caused by breathing woodsmoke, phasing out this major source of pollution has much greater public support.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: In winter, the southerly winds would trap chimney smoke in between houses in Sydney's north shore suburbs where Mark and his family used to live, and the smoke from a neighbour's heater was obvious.
MARK: Really, we could smell it in our bedclothes, we could smell it inside our house. At least two of our five children get quite bad asthma, and the others get it mildly, and one of them in fact had to go onto oral steroids because their asthma got so bad with it.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: After unsuccessfully raising it with his neighbour, Mark and his wife also tried the local council and then the neighbour again. But nothing changed.
MARK: We would not infrequently go out on to our back veranda and there would be visible smoke within the house. You could smell it quite easily. At night time, both my wife and I but also our children had very irritated eyes and we were coughing, to the point where it made it really rather unpleasant to sleep.
TOM NIGHTINGALE: The family has now moved house for other reasons, but Mark says the rules for wood-fired heaters are nowhere near good enough, and not properly enforced.
MARK: I think it's very toothless. I think it's actually a significant risk for councils, because of the risks such as we experienced.
If our child was admitted to a hospital, that I think is a big risk for councils that they need to take on board.
August 2013. American Lung Association Infographic (left). The ALA recommends driving less, cleaning up dirty diesel vehicles, using less electricity, not burning wood or trash, cleaning up harmful gasoline emissions and dirty power stations. This info-graphic confirms the ALA's position, that they "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”
Committee disturbed by woodsmoke's disproportionate contribution to urban air pollution
Improved woodheater standards ... 1% of the cost of meeting air quality targets, 66% of the benefit
"The committee was disturbed by the disproportionate contribution made by wood smoke to urban air pollution, given the relatively small number of households using it as a heating source."
"In Sydney, improving wood heater pollution standards to 1g/kg would represent 1% of the cost of meeting the air quality targets of the NEPM, while representing 66%of the necessary abatement in PM10 levels."
6.43 The committee recommends that Australian Governments immediately adopt minimum efficiency and maximum emission standards for all newly installed wood heaters in Australia.
With such large benefits for a relatively small cost, the best way to protect public health would be to base emission standards on the health cost of woodsmoke pollution. Not allowing the installation of new heaters until they have passed a strict health-based standard is the best and most cost-effective way to protect public health.
AHHA's claims to the Senate Inquiry found to be untrue
The Senate Inquiry also confirmed that the failure to strengthen national woodheater standards "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." Like many other claims made by the AHHA
, this claim to the Senate Inquiry was found to be untrue.
August 2013. Carbon, silicon in airborne particulates increase risk of death in US cities.
"For decades, scientists have been trying to unravel why more people die of heart attacks, asthma and other health problems whenever fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, increases. Particulates are a mix of substances emitted by sources of combustion, including cars, trucks, industrial plants and wood burning. ... The researchers from Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Yale universities used air pollution and mortality data from all causes of death, except accidents, between 2000 and 2005. Seven compounds that, together, typically make up 79 to 85 percent of PM2.5 mass were analyzed. ... With a typical, day-to-day increase in pollutant levels, deaths rose by 0.39 percent for organic carbon, 0.22 percent for elemental carbon, 0.17 percent for silicon and 0.16 for sodium. The researchers found “little evidence” of variation by season or region." These results confirm the major threat to public health resulting from the disproportionate amount PM2.5 emissions of Australian wood heaters, much of which consists of organic carbon.
June 2013. NSW EPA graph showing the sources of PM2.5 in Sydney
(where approximately 5% of households use wood as the main form of heating).
PM2.5 - tiny particles so small they behave like gases and infiltrate homes even when all doors and windows are shut, and penetrate the deepest recesses of our lungs, are considered the most health-hazardous air pollutant, responsible for 10 to 20 times as many premature deaths as the next worst pollutant, ozone.
There is no safe level of PM2.5 pollution. The World Health Organisation’s “Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution notes that “In the
absence of a threshold … health benefits will result from any reduction of
PM2.5 concentrations whether or not the current levels are above or below the
The NSW EPA graph below shows that a small proportion of households using wood heaters is responsible for the lion's share of emissions of the most health-hazardous air pollutant - PM2.5. In 2006, a study of the health effects of particulate pollution led to press reports that Sydney's polluted air is contributing to the deaths of up to 1,400 people a year. At the time, a member of the Upper House commented: "But no one has yet given us a breakdown on where the pollution comes from - cars, airports and industrial plants." The wood heater lobby successfully diverted attention away from the real cause.
Now that the major source of health-hazardous PM2.5 emissions is only too clear, everyone who cares about their health should demand immediate action to implement the 3 effective woodsmoke-control measures and save $6 billion in health costs.
1) The dangers of PM2.5 pollution were demonstrated by measuring arterial stiffness in a volunteer who had experienced low pollution levels, then after just 1 hour exposed to high levels of PM2.5 from diesels - an important lesson for everyone to know and understand.
May 2013. BBC Documentary on air pollution
. Half hour BBC documentary on air pollution - mainly cars but there are some clear messages in relation to woodsmoke.
2) Much of the problem was created because, despite everything we knew about the dangers of PM2.5 pollution, diesels were sold as 'green cars'. Governments encouraged people to buy them by handing out tax incentives!!!
The parallels with woodsmoke are only too obvious. The diesel tax incentives were a big mistake that has caused many premature deaths and substantial health problems. To save ourselves a lot of suffering, ill-health and significant costs of remediation, we should stop installing new wood heaters now, and introduce programs to get rid of the existing ones.
April 2013. Michigan firefighters seek workers' comp for cancer.
In May 2009, then 36-year-old Sterling Heights firefighter Chris Slezak, went to his doctor on a Monday because he felt out of shape and worn out. By that Friday, Slezak, who was active and healthy his entire life, got his first round of chemotherapy for leukemia. Slezak, whose leukemia is now in remission, said he believes it was caused by 16 years of battling burning, smoke-filled structures.
April 2013. Air pollution linked to heart disease. Exposure to polluted air increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by speeding up the hardening of the arteries, according to new research.
United States researchers took ultrasound measurements of the blood vessels of more than 5000 people and examined PM2.5 levels at each person's house. In findings published in PLOS Medicine on Wednesday, the researchers concluded that higher concentrations of fine particles in the air were linked to a faster thickening of the inner two layers of the common carotid artery, a blood vessel that provides blood to the head, neck and brain.
Senator Di Natale said the number of Australians who died from air pollution each year was more than twice the national road toll. The director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Kandeh Yumkella recently said that globally, air pollution was causing more deaths than AIDS and malaria combined.
The Australian Medical Association has told the Senate inquiry that Australia's rules do not protect human health. AMA federal president Steve Hambleton told the inquiry fine particles – which are released into the air from sources such as coal mining and the burning of petrol and wood – were particularly dangerous because they were so small they could lodge deep in the lungs.
April 2013. Federal Government Consultation on New Woodheater Regulations. After many years of delays, the Federal Government has released a consultation regulation impact statement (CRIS) on proposed woodheater regulations.
The CRIS admits that woodheaters are a major source of particulate (PM) air pollution - estimated at 40,000 tonnes per year, and roughly 4 times the National Pollutant Inventory estimate of PM pollution from motor vehicles.
It also shows that the health costs of every new heater installed in urban areas areas amount to many thousands of dollars per year. Despite the fact that there can be no possible benefits to justify these extraordinary health costs, the best the Government could come u[ with is to introduce the regulations adopted by NZ in 2005 by 2018.
A draft AAQG response to the woodheater CRIS asks why the estimated health cost of thousands of dollars per heater per year were enough to consider not allowing new wood heaters until a satisfactory health-based standard had been developed. Anyone interested in the health effects of woodsmoke should try to find time to comment on the proposals.
There will be public meetings to provide an overview of the consultation RIS and how to make submissions - scheduled for Sydney, Canberra (Tuggeranong), Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Armidale, Launceston and Wagga - dates to be announced.
April 2013. Wood heater link to heart, lung diseases
Hundreds of thousands of Australians are endangering their health by the regular use of wood heaters at home.
About 1 million homes regularly use wood-burning heaters, despite links to heart and lung disease. Health and environment experts are calling on the federal government to better regulate their use.
In a submission to a Senate inquiry into the impact of air quality on health, a Launceston lung specialist, James Markos, said there was no safe threshold for the fine particle pollution that resulted from wood-burning heaters, just as there was no safe threshold for exposure to tobacco smoke.
Along with irritating existing conditions such as asthma and emphysema, studies had found that prolonged exposure to wood smoke was an ''important environmental risk factor'' in fatal heart or lung disease or lung cancer, he said.
2013. A fireplace pollutes the air as much as 1,000 cars. "The increase in the excise duty on heating fuel has forced a large number of Greek households to find alternative solutions, the most popular being the fireplace. According to studies, however, the burning of wood greatly increases air pollution." ... "the concentration of airborne particles on cold nights without wind reached very high levels". The highest among them were in the Thiseio region in the centre of Athens, where they reached 100 micrograms per cubic metre and in the centre of Patras with more than 200 micrograms per cubic metre. The experts make a comparison with the annual average concentrations of PM2.5 in the European Union, which is 20 ug per cubic metre.
Utah, where particle pollution tends be higher during winter months for various reasons, such as "more frequent and severe temperature inversions; more space heating, including wood burning” a group
of Utah doctors are advising prospective parents to wait until the inversion season is over before trying to conceive. "A growing body of research is linking air pollution to negative birth outcomes, most often prematurity, low birth weight and restricted growth in the womb. .... Low birth weight is linked to problems in later childhood, including impaired intellectual ability, elevated blood pressure, diabetes and obesity."
2013. US EPA Green Heart Month
The US EPA is raising awareness of heart disease and its link to air pollution and other environmental factors.
January 2013. Niles council in favor of ban on outdoor wood boilers Should Niles residents be allowed to use outdoor wood boilers within the city’s residential areas? The consensus from the Niles City Council, speaking on the topic during a committee meeting of the whole Monday evening, was no....
“I can’t understand why anybody would want to have the wood fires because you could actually really kill your neighbors,” said councilman Scott Clark. “The smoke isn’t the problem — the particulate matter is the problem.”
Diane Powers, of the city’s building safety division, said ... she’s received about 20 inquiries into installing outdoor wood boilers over the past five years. She’s denied each request without pushback.
January 2013. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment declares polluted air a public emergency - reduce speed limits, make mass transit free, cut industrial production by 50%, ban wood burning
"More than one hundred members of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment held a press conference at the Utah Capitol on Wednesday, delivering a letter in which they say Utah’s air is dangerous.
"They say their patients are dying prematurely and pregnant women are having complications, and that the dirty air is having an impact on everyone, one way or another. “Some women who are pregnant right now are going to miscarry, some women who are pregnant right now are going to develop preeclampsia and a few more babies are going to be born prematurely because of these five days in this bad month,” said Dr. Kurtly Jones, doctor of reproductive medicine.
"But the risk isn’t just for the pregnant, elderly or certain high-risk people, it’s hurting everyone, so much that it should be considered a public health emergency.
"The UPHE delivered a letter to the Governor’s Office offering a list of suggestions. The list suggests such actions as reducing highway speed limits to 55 mph, making mass transit free for the remainder of the winter season, requiring industrial polluters to cut production by 50 percent and completely prohibiting wood burning.
January 2013. Climate change: Soot's role 'underestimated' says study "Scientists say that particles from diesel engines and wood burning could be having twice as much warming effect as assessed in past estimates. They say it ranks second only to carbon dioxide as the most important climate warming agent .... This new study concludes the dark particles are having a warming effect approximately two thirds that of carbon dioxide, and greater than methane."
"Reducing emissions from diesel engines and domestic wood and coal fires is a no-brainer as there are tandem health and climate benefits," said Professor Piers Forster from the University of Leeds.
"If we did everything we could to reduce these emissions we could buy ourselves up to half a degree less warming, or a couple of decades of respite," he added."
January 2013. Switch out of wood-burning stoves saves lives
The Australian, 9 January 2013.
"REDUCING the use of wood-burning stoves in Launceston led to a sharp fall in deaths from respiratory diseases and heart failure, a study published today says.
"The paper, published by the British Medical Journal, highlights the pollution risks from inefficient biomass burning, used by billions of people for heating and cooking.
"University of Tasmania researchers looked at what happened when the city implemented a scheme to reduce pollution from wood smoke.
"It launched a campaign to educate residents about the risks of smoke from wood-burning stoves and offered help to replace these with electric ones.
"From 2001 to 2004, the number of households that used wood-burning stoves fell from 66 to 30 per cent. Atmospheric pollution from air particulates during winter fell by 40 per cent.
"Deaths among men fell by 11.4 per cent, particularly from cardiovascular causes, which saw a decline of 17.9 per cent, and from respiratory causes, which retreated by 22.8 per cent ..."
January 2013. Launceston's $2 million woodsmoke-reduction program halved wood heater use and reduced wintertime deaths from cardiovasular diseases by 20% and respiratory deaths by 28%. With such tremendous benefits from reducing wood heater use to 30%, how many people would like to see another 20-28% reduction in cardiovascular and respiratory deaths by persuading the remaining 30% of households to convert to non-polluting heating? Who wouldn't value the benefits of a 20-28% reduction in cardiovascular and respiratory deaths at much more than the cost of converting the remaining 30% of households to non-polluting heating?
Study highlights: "The interventions dramatically accelerated a general trend towards using electric rather than wood heaters. Following the interventions wood heater prevalence fell from 66 per cent to 30 per cent of all households and the three month average particulate air pollution during winter was reduced by 40 per cent.
“The difference between deaths in 1994-2001 and 2001-2007 were statistically significant in men: differences of 11.4 per cent for all-cause mortality; 17.9 per cent for cardiovascular and 22.8 per cent for respiratory.
“Results taken during the winter months (June – August) for males and females combined showed even higher reductions: cardiovascular 20 per cent; respiratory 28 per cent."
So, halving wood heater use reduced wintertime deaths from cardiovasular diseases by 20% and respiratory deaths by 28%, with total deaths per year in males falling by 17.9% for cardiovascular, 22.8% for respiratory. With such tremendous benefits from reducing wood heater use to 30%, who wouldn't want to see another 20-28% reduction in cardiovascular and respiratory deaths by persuading the remaining 30% of households to convert to non-polluting heating?
November 2012. PM2.5 pollution reduces cognitive function in older adults
. A study by the US EPA measured cognitive function by a series of tests assessing word recall, knowledge, language, and orientation in of 14,793 subjectsaged 50 and oever. A 10 ug/m3 increase in PM2.5 was associated with a 0.36 point drop in cognitive function score, roughtly equal to three years of aging.
November 2012. NSW Government Consultation on Woodsmoke Control Options.
The latest NSW emissions inventory (2008 data) estimates that wood heaters, used by less than 4% of households in Sydney are responsible 51% of all Sydney's all man-made PM2.5 emissions. Wood heaters therefore contribute a substantial proportion of the 643 to 1446 premature deaths attributed to particle pollution each year in Sydney.
The EPA discussion paper is an opportunity to introduce much-needed controls to reduce the health impact of wood heater pollution in urban areas. A briefing paper has been prepared in co-operation with Cate Faehrman, MLC, including background information and some suggested responses to the discussion paper questions.
Everyone concerned about woodsmoke should consider making their views known to balance the misleading information put out by the AHHA on behalf of the Australian wood heating industry.
explaining why the current geneneration of wood heaters, which have estimated health costs of $4436 per year in Sydney (and $1562 per year in rural areas) is totally unacceptable. The best option is therefore to adopt the policy that is successfully reducing woodsmoke in Christchurch, NZ. Christcurch's emissions limit is 1.0 g/kg, with new heaters allowed only as replacements for existing, more polluting, wood heaters.
Instead of carrying out the same deceptive practices as the tobacco industry, the Australian Wood heating industry and its representatives (the AHHA) should immediately work on introducing develop technology (e.g. gas boosted ignition and sensors to boost the airflow or switch on the gas booster when the temperature falls below what is needed to burn up the smoke pollution). This would allow people to install and use wood heaters without damaging the health of the community.
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment - 30-sec video - essential viewing!Winter Spare the Air 30-second video - also essential viewing!
Woodsmoke Pollution and your health - video of woodsmoke pollution in Canberra and Armidale and advice from Dr Jim Markos, Australian Lung Foundation
CSIRO Study: Impacts of smoke from regeneration burning on air quality in the Huon Valley, Tasmania
The study measured PM2.5 pollution in Grove, a rural area, exposed only to forestry burns and Geeveston, a small town with 277 houses, exposed to smoke from domestic wood heaters as well as forestry burns. The difference is shown in the graph below. Although there is some pollution from forestry burns in Grove, the vast majority of the pollution in Geeveston is woodsmoke from domestic heating.
The graph below compares the two - Grove (light green) has relatively low pollution. The 277 houses in Geeveston create a massive, unhealthy pollution problem every winter. The PM2.5 standard was exceeded in
Geeveston on 99 occasions.
During the 20 month study wood heater emissions were responsible for 77% of the man-made PM pollution in Geeveston, compared to 11% from smoke plumes from forestry burns, 4% from waste combustion and 8% from other sources.
Because most people live in towns, people shop there children go to school there, people are exposed to high levels of toxic smoke pollution. As in Launceston, funds should be made available as a matter of urgency to replace wood heaters with gas or reverse cycle electric heating to protect residents' health.
90 Scientists urge US Congress to improve carbon accounting of biofuels and bioenergy
"Clearing or cutting forests for energy, either to burn trees directly in power plants or to replace forests with bioenergy crops, has the net effect of releasing otherwise sequestered carbon into the atmosphere, just like the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
A Burning Issue: The experts speak about wood smoke..
Oroville Mercury-Register: 14 May 2010
In December 2009, after 33 breaches of the air quality standard, the US EPA set a three-year deadline for Chico, a small town in Butte County, to clean up its woodsmoke pollution. A local reported asked physicians, research scientists and other experts in Chico and nationwide how tiny particles and other ingredients of wood smoke may affect people's health.
"Wood smoke definitely has a negative health impact." Mark Lundberg, MD, Butte County public health officer and president, Butte-Glenn Medical Society
"I'm convinced that it causes potentially serious health effects in some people, particularly asthmatics ... If you're immediately downwind from someone who's burning, you can really get a significant exposure." Michael Lipsett, MD, chief, Environmental Health Investigations Branch, California Department of Public Health. Dr Lipsett developed public health and medical guidelines for state's outdoor air quality standards.
"Your lung function at seven years of age predicts your lung function at 35 years of age. So factors that might impact the growth and development of your lungs early in your life are relevant to problems in your natural lung function as adults." Mark Miller, MD, MPH, director, UC San Francisco Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit and former Chico pediatrician
"Studies have shown that if you expose people to air pollution particles, you can see that it changes heart rate. We've also shown that it can cause clotting. In one of these susceptible populations, that can be a problem." Robert Devlin, Ph.D., senior scientist and former chief, Clinical Research Branch, Environmental Public Health Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
"There are nationwide and local epidemiological studies showing that when particulate matter (in air pollution) goes up, premature deaths go up." Matthew Lakin, Ph.D., scientist, risk assessment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
"I think it's a fair comparison to look at wood smoke similar to burning vegetable matter such as tobacco." Melanie Marty, Ph.D., chief, Air Toxicology and Epidemiology Branch, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California Environmental Protection Agency
"I think we need to educate the public ... I don't think they realize how toxic wood smoke is. I don't think we've done a very good job about that." L. Gretchen Wooding, MD.
Proposed amendments to the NZ National Environmental Standard (NES) on air quality
NZ is reviewing its National Environmental Standard (NES) on air quality. Papers, discussion documents and an online submission form are available at http://www.mfe.govt.nz/news/2010-06-09-air-quality-review.html NB the deadline for submissions is Friday, 9 July.
Green Party spokesperson on Resource Management, David Clendon, commented:
Anyone who agrees with these sentiments should use the online submission form to argue against delaying and lowering the standards. The online material includes a report by the Technical Advisory Group which cites the conclusions of UK Air Quality Expert Group publication in 2005: “Particulate matter can affect our health. The available evidence suggests that it is the fine components of PM10, which have a diameter of 2.5 μm or less and are formed by combustion, that are the main cause of the harmful effects of particulate matter.”
"The Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand (HAPINZ) report estimated that 1,100 Kiwis die prematurely each year because of air pollution, and many more children and adults suffer from debilitating asthma and respiratory illness.
“Air pollution is estimated to cost our economy over $1 billion a year. Clean air is essential to our economic and environmental wellbeing. Delaying and lowering standards costs us more in the long run.”
Instead, the air quality standards standards should be upgraded by the introduction of a much-needed PM2.5 standard, allowing NZ to aim for the greatest reduction in the pollutant that most affects our health for the least possible cost. This cannot be achieved if the pollutant most closely linked to adverse health outcomes is not even considered.
See our draft submission
for more ideas and information.