Fine particle pollution was contributing to the premature deaths of up to 1,400 Sydneysiders every year, according to a study of air pollution and health in 2006. The NSW EPA graph of health-hazardous PM2.5 emissions in the Sydney region, derived from the emissions inventory for 2008, makes it 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.
The table below from the NSW EPA Emissions inventory for 2008 reported that woodheaters emit 5,457 tonnes of PM2.5 in Sydney, compared to 1,552 tonnes from on-road vehicles, 1,935 from industry, 952 from off-road vehicles and 184 tonnes from other sources. PM2.5 exhaust emissions from on-road diesels fell from 1521 tonnes in 2003 to 813 in 2008, a drop of 708 tonnes (47%), but this decrease was offset by the increase of 952 tonnes in PM2.5 emissions from woodheaters (from 4503 tonnes in 2003).
Sydney's PM2.5 measurements also peak in winter - see graph below for for 2014 - with a second peak in spring when there are hazard reduction burn-offs.
Chemical fingerprinting - large proportion of PM2.5 pollution is woosmoke
Although only a small proportion of households in Sydney use wood heaters, analyses of PM2.5 particles collected on filters in Liverpool show almost half of those in winter come from domestic wood heaters. The research publication, Cohen et al. – Atmospheric Pollution Research 2 (2011) 182‐189, notes that “Clearly wood heaters in the Liverpool area in winter are a major source of fine particle pollution.”
PM2.5 emissions in Sydney (Table ES-9: Top 10 human-made sources of particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm in Sydney, from Technical Report 1 of the NSW EPA Emissions Inventory for 2008, published 2012, click to enlarge image)Sources of man-made PM2.5 emissions in Sydney (From a paper presented at the Clean Air Society Conference on the NSW EPA woodsmoke reduction initiatives).
The estimated health costs of woodsmoke pollution in NSW is more than $8 billion - more than $22,000 for every wood heater in the state.
No safe level of PM2.5 pollution
Research shows that PM2.5 (tiny particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter) are the most health-hazardous air pollutant. In Europe, PM2.5 are estimated to cause 492,000 premature deaths per year, compared to just 21,000 for ozone, the next worst pollutant.
There is no safe level of PM2.5 pollution. The World Health Organisation 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 limit values.”PM2.5 are so small they behave like gases and infiltrate homes even when all doors and windows are shut, abd penetrate the deepest recesses of our lungs, causing inflammation leading to heart and lung diseases and lung cancer.
Woodmoke particles just as dangerous as other PM2.5Healthy volunteers in a woodsmoke-affected area with average outdoor PM2.5 measurements of 10 ug/m3 (40% of the current Australian "standard" of 25 ug/m3) were studied after one week of using High Efficiency Particle Air (HEPA) filters, and under normal pollution exposure when (unbeknown to the volunteers) the filters had been removed from the filtration machines. The filters reduced inside homes by 60% and woodsmoke by 75%, and their use was associated with improved blood vessel function and decreased inflammation, both predictors of cardiovascular morbidity.
Ryan Allen, PhD, assistant professor, Simon Fraser University, said: "Reducing air pollution appears to provide health benefits even if the pollution levels are already relatively low."
Detailed comparison of air pollution emissions from woodheaters and petrol-fuelled passenger cars in Sydney in 2008 (from 2008 NSW EPA Emissions Inventory - emissions for all road transport are the red boxes on the NSW EPA graph, right )
Emissions per passenger car
calculated using RTA data for numbers of registered passenger cars in Sydney
(1.811 million in 2007); emissions per woodheater based on estimates of the numbers
of woodheaters in Sydney
(106,100) from Todd, J. and T. Solomon, Woodsmoke Reduction Workshop Notes.
2009, NSW DECC. Using ABS estimates of
83,300 households (5% of households in Sydney) using wood as the main form of space heating would result in a 39% increase in estimated emissions per heater.