2022 – Will wood-burning stoves contribute to urban air pollution? Yes, citizen scientists say | air pollution

As in many parts of the country, Bristol has seen a massive increase in the number of homes where wood stoves have been installed over the past decade. But as they thrive, especially in wealthier parts of the city where many Victorian and Georgian homes have been renovated, there are also concerns that they are causing pollution.

And now, a group of citizen scientists involved in the first community-led project to look into toxic smoke from wood stoves has revealed new evidence of its dangers.

Ten volunteers, stationed in an area within the rapidly improving city of Bristol, with one of the highest concentrations of solid fuel burners in the city, recorded 11 violations of WHO guidelines on daily ultrafine particle pollution over a six-month period. .

The project is believed to be the first in which volunteers are given a new, affordable monitoring technology to measure pollution caused in part by household combustion.

Sensors have been placed across the Ashley area, which includes disadvantaged parts of St Paul and better-off areas of Bristol such as Montpellier. Paul’s, Oluwatosin Chitto, 40, found that his sensor picked up more pollution on weekends, when some residents were burning wood, and during peak hours when cars were lining up local roads.

“in the weekend [pollution] It was high because it was obviously up the hill [in Montpelier] People were burning wood.”

Steve Curracho, who leads the project on the council, said burning wood locally is a serious and growing problem. He added that the number of days that WHO pollution guidelines were exceeded in the community is largely in line with the city average but remains a concern.

Wood burning and traffic produces tiny airborne particles — known as PM 2.5, or particles 2.5 microns or less in diameter — that can pass through the lungs and into the bloodstream, causing cardiovascular problems, respiratory disease and cancer.

“The evidence is that almost any level of PM 2.5 is harmful — there’s no minimum without which you don’t see health effects,” said Krauchow. “Bristol has about 300 deaths a year from poor air quality and at least half of those deaths – 150 – are due to PM 2.5.”

The number of solid fuel appliances such as wood stoves installed in Bristol has increased sevenfold in the decade since 2007, with just over 900 installations registered in 2017.

“We’ve forgotten our clean air journey. In the 1950s, at least 4,000 people died in London’s smog within five days. This led to the Clean Air Act, and then natural gas was brought into homes in the 1960s. It stopped. Most people reported burning wood because it was filthy and uncomfortable. Now it’s a modern lifestyle choice.”

The council hopes the project will raise awareness of the health effects of wood smoke and encourage residents to turn on central heating rather than charging their wood stoves during the colder months. “We want citizen scientists to become community ambassadors to improve air quality and change behavior in the city,” Curacao added.

As of earlier this year, all new wood stoves sold will be required to have what’s called an “eco-design,” but Croshaw said, “Even if people are burning clean, dry wood, these stoves are still very polluting compared to gas and Electric stoves.

The smoke in the station doesn’t just come from middle-class homes. There is a trailer community in the area that burns some wood for heating. Rising energy costs are also pushing some struggling families back to using open fires.

“More and more people are getting warm by setting fire to a room and turning off the central heating,” he said. We know that some people who live in poverty have no alternative. We’re not saying ‘you have to be cool’ – we are taking a socially fair approach.”

The latest analysis by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) shows that wood stoves and open fires are now responsible for 17% of the country’s total PM 2.5 pollution – more than pollution from road traffic. Nationally, emissions from household wood burning increased 35% between 2010 and 2020.

The government is considering introducing a new small-molecular target of 10 micrograms per cubic meter for England by 2040. But that is close to current levels in cities like Bristol and twice the safe levels set by the World Health Organization.

A Defra spokesperson said PM 2.5 pollution has fallen 18% since 2010 but there is more to be done: “We have passed legislation to phase out the sale of the most polluting solid fuels used in household combustion, and we are committed to reducing emissions across all means. Transport “.