Pioneering scientific study on minimising air pollution from woodburning stoves and open fires to launch in 2023 - but there are steps people can take now to reduce risks

Health leaders want Greater Manchester residents to follow advice that can reduce the impact of air pollution from woodburning stoves and open fires this winter.

While the increased cost of heating has fuelled interest in alternative ways of keeping warm, the smoke produced when wood and other solid fuels are burned contains tiny harmful particles, known as PM2.5. These tiny particles can damage your lungs and other organs, and harm the health of you and your family.

Health leaders now want Greater Manchester residents to know that there are things they can do to reduce the amount of PM2.5 pollution caused by smoke from solid fuel domestic heating equipment.

Eleanor Roaf, spokesperson for the Greater Manchester Directors of Public Health on Air Quality, said: “The cost of heating our homes has risen significantly and we know that people will be doing what they can to keep warm this winter, which may include the use of woodburning stoves and open fires.

“But this is not without risks. The fine particulate matter found in stove and fire smoke travels deep into our lungs. This can have an impact on people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and can also lead to more serious health conditions.

“However, if people do have to burn solid fuel in their homes this winter, especially when faced with increasing energy costs and difficult choices, a few small changes to the way people burn could help to reduce the risks to themselves and others.

“People may also be surprised to learn that even the most efficient woodburning stove will increase the level of fine particulate matter inside and outside of their homes. That is why we’re asking for people to follow the Burn Better advice, which sets out a few small changes that can make a big difference.”

Guidance on how to ‘Burn Better’ can be found online at Burn better: Making changes for cleaner air – Defra, UK and includes: Image of woodburning stove. Text reads: Are you feeding your burner the right fuels? Burn Better

  • Always choosing fuels that are cleaner to burn. Look for the ‘Ready to Burn’ logo on bagged fuel.
  • If you burn wood, make sure it’s dried properly. Freshly cut wood needs to be air dried for a minimum of 2 years before it’s safe to burn.
  • Have a skilled tradesperson clean and maintain your appliance regularly.
  • Get your chimney swept at least once a year. This reduces emissions as well as the chances of chimney fires breaking out

The sale of traditional house coal and bags of ‘wet’ wood is now banned in the UK and people should look out for the government-approved ‘Ready to Burn’ logo when buying small bags of firewood and solid fuel briquettes. This means it has a low moisture content so it burns more efficiently, with less harmful smoke and air pollution. It’s also better for stoves, fireplaces and chimneys, and reduces fuel and maintenance costs.

Designated Smoke Control Areas across Greater Manchester specify where people cannot emit smoke from a chimney unless they are burning an authorised fuel or using an exempt appliance. Residents can find out if they live in a smoke control area by visiting their local authority’s website.

A scientific study by The University of Manchester on behalf of Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities, funded by an Air Quality Grant from Defra, will next year seek to increase understanding of the link between use of solid fuels and air quality at a local level.

Around 40 new air quality sensors will be installed to better understand where there are high levels of PM2.5 fine particulate matter.

The Environment Act 2021 introduced penalties for the emission of smoke from a chimney in a Smoke Control Area and an offence to acquire of offer for sale fuel other than approved fuel.

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