Wood smoke is toxic

kristo 12 November 2010 131

Queanbeyan’s smoke problems are bad, too. The smell of smoke here is pervasive and looking into our narrow southern valley from heights reveals how so much pollution is caused by so few. Wood smoke is a rich cocktail of carcinogens, toxins and irritants.

Naturally, neighbours of polluters fare worse. One in eight people have asthma (one in five kids). That means that every wood heating house probably has an asthma sufferer nearby.

Governments care more about the combustion rights of a tiny minority than the breathing rights of the vast majority.

Voluntary regulation is ineffective when the private benefits of antisocial behaviour are high. And schemes that pay some people modest amounts to remove wood heaters while others are permitted to install them are fiscal folly. Regulating wood quality through sellers is flawed, too, as people cut their own.

And as for sustainability, an A.C.T. report says that 90% of the fuel is from paddock trees that aren’t replaced!

[ED – on the other hand having a wood fire is great for convincing desirable people to stay the night!]

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131 Responses to Wood smoke is toxic
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Burning_Log Burning_Log 11:25 am 21 Apr 11

spinact said :

ACTEWAGL propaganda. When the revolution comes and the power goes out, how are YOU going to keep warm? Hmmm? You can pry my slow combustion heater from my cold dead hands………….

Spinact raises a good point. There are many gas heating solutions that will not operate in a blackout.

Wood Fires – if used correctly – have very low particulate emissions. The wood fire association has stipulated that any new wood fire must emit less than 4 g per kg of fuel burnt. There are many Aussie built fireplaces on the market that emit less than 2 g per kg. This in turn means that old wood fires (10+ years) generally won’t be approved for installation.

Most common causes of smokey fires
• Wood no placed correctly (most fires need to be loaded with the wood facing front to back not side to side.)
• Not lit quickly (trying to light big logs initially – use kindling and good firelighters)
• Not cleaning the chimney / flue (you should clean it at every 12 months)
• Using Wet or unseasoned wood (Use only dry Hardwood)
• Burning inappropriate media (Paper –small amounts are ok, pallets and plastic)

People just need a little bit more education in the use of their wood fire.

If you are wondering we have up to 6 fireplaces going at any one time and the surrounding area is not blanketed in smoke – most people don’t even realise that they are lit. (Yes I actually asked people at Wespac, the Petrol Station and the Child Care centre)

spinact spinact 8:06 pm 23 Dec 10

ACTEWAGL propaganda. When the revolution comes and the power goes out, how are YOU going to keep warm? Hmmm? You can pry my slow combustion heater from my cold dead hands………….

POK POK 6:52 pm 23 Dec 10

I have asthma, I use a wood fire heater. You need to look at a larger set of variables before simply legislating things away. For instance, heating has to come from somewhere. Does an electric/gas heater user look into available supply or generation method for their heating? What is the carbon footprint of coal burning and what is the effect of a coal plant (and associated coal mines) on their local communities? How much gas can we source renewably?

I think that there are a few good points to doing things with a woodfire. First of all, you have to put in effort for your heating. It costs money (upfront) for the heating fuel, it costs time to maintain your heating equipment and it costs real estate and a basic setup to store and keep your wood dry. The fire can’t just be switched on and off. You can see with your own two eyes what kind of resources you’re consuming.

I think a lot of people would be more eco conscious if they had to cut their fuel themselves.

For the record, I use a slow combustion wood heater which has a water jacket in the back of it connected to a water tank. The tank is also connected to a set of solar panels on the roof. There is an electric element, but it only runs offpeak. My power onpeak is fine though because I have excessive amounts of photovoltaics on my roof. There is a rainwater tank outside (overflowing since August) connected to the house. I also drive a tiny toyota that uses next to no fuel.

Opinions expressed like yours are more dangerous to the community than woodfire users. You could make almost anything illegal on sometimes arbitrary or political reasons. You might increase political apathy by misusing the government and its regulatory bodies. That will not save lives in the long run. It makes the whole environmental safety thing look like chicken little.

capn_pugwash capn_pugwash 11:25 am 17 Nov 10

I think skidbladnir has sprung vsteblin and caresabouthealth… now for kristo ;-D

shadow boxer shadow boxer 10:45 am 16 Nov 10

It’s perfectly legal to take fallen wood from the side of the road in the ACT and no permit is required.

btw your logic is flawed, forcing people to open their flues at night increases wood consumption, your argument has to be environmental or health related, it can’t be both.

CaresAboutHealth CaresAboutHealth 8:19 am 16 Nov 10

the said :

I have a wood fired heater in my house. I cant afford anything else. On the pension I dont see anyone else volunteering to replace it with a gas system. With all my costs going up higher and higher every single month, having some heat in my little house for me and the grand-kids is what makes my house our home. Please dont rage against me because I cant afford anything else.

Some councils offer generous subsidies (e.g. $1000 in Armidale, NSW, $500 in Launceston, more (750+) for pensioners). Currently, the ACT’s $500 subsidy is provided by agreement with AGL, but the pollies seem to be considering what else they could do.

You must be lucky in having a cheap supply of wood. A lot of people I know scavenge and if caught could end up with large fines for damaging the environment. Buying at commercial firewood prices costs a lot more than non-polluting heating for your home.

The rage is not against people who can’t afford non-polluting heating, but against the selfish *** who con people into buying a product that produces such toxic pollution. The Australian Standards Committee wanted a warning on all woodheaters, explaining that woodsmoke is toxic and the heater must be operated according to the instructions in the manual.

But the wood heating industry vetoed the recommendations made by the vast majority of delegates at the last Australian Standards meeting, both to halve the emissions limits and to put warnings on heaters. So the heaters on sale in Australia are so bad that if installed in Christchurch or Otago, the Government would make you remove them.

The real rage is against the fact that people are being exploited by an industry that, just like the tobacco industry, cares much more about profits than people’s health.

Diggety Diggety 2:52 pm 15 Nov 10

Guess what wowsers? We are all going to die.

I would prefer wood smoke related illnesses to suffocating on cotton wool any day.

Wraith Wraith 2:35 pm 15 Nov 10

I like to drip feed old sump oil out of the cars into the old pot belly, makes it burn great!! Nice and bright, really warm, some nights I can get it so hot, I can almost see through the thing.

shadow boxer shadow boxer 2:00 pm 15 Nov 10

“Conducted by the Lovelace Respiratory Research Centre”

That has to be a joke name surely, i’m not brave enough to type it into Google while i’m at work

Thumper Thumper 1:49 pm 15 Nov 10

These newbies must get seriously worked up whenever there is a bushfire, say, Canberra 2003? Victoria 2009?

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 1:31 pm 15 Nov 10

Also vsteblin, I’d watch out.
CaresAboutHealth is stalking you in almost every place you’ve ever moved to.

Paolo Alto
Another story from Connecticut
Another Random internet forum the Wood Smoke Activist invaded
New Zealand
Western Australia
And now here in Canberra.

If Shirley Brandie asks, let her know your astroturfing is failing.

georgesgenitals georgesgenitals 1:26 pm 15 Nov 10

vsteblin said :

Wood smoke smells like bacon and eggs to me, so wood smoke must be safe.

Had wood smoke for breakfast this morning, and it was ****ING DELICIOUS!

colourful sydney racing identity colourful sydney racing identity 1:23 pm 15 Nov 10

AirPatriot said :

“Wood smoke is the new cigarette smoke. How long did it take for people to understand secondhand smoke and the health impacts? Now, the same thing is happening with wood smoke, which contains many of the same carcinogens as cigarette smoke, plus dioxins and fine particulate matter.”

If you don’t like our air, kindly stop breathing it.

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 1:19 pm 15 Nov 10

vsteblin said :

Alaska … Canada…
Wake up sheeple, wood heating is murder!

That would make you the same vsteblin screaming about the joys of children and their brown fat reserves they develop when, and the harmful wood smoke you seem to experience in your various multiple residences in:
Davis, California
Paolo Alto, California
Powell River, BC 1600 km away,
2570 Laurier Crescent, Prince George, BC, conveniently between to the Canadian Prince George Regional Hospital Psych Ward Outpatient Clinic and the rail yard, a further 900 km away,
or that time you piped up as a commenter from New Haven, Connecticut, on the other side of the continent, about 3000 km away?

Also regularly contributing to the American Wood Smoke Activist (page 13), the publication with the Mission Statement of: to educate public officials, government and all citizens about wood smoke as a major form of hazardous air pollution that affects our health, use of our property, water, crops, livestock, the environment and climate change. We urge citizens everywhere to press for legislative changes to call wood smoke a public nuisance under state health codes and to ban all wood burning. “Breathing wood smoke is smoking!”

Also more recently providing your support to the West Australian laws?

Are we just meant to accept you as a local with open arms?

vsteblin said :

Consider how the Arctic peoples never got to burn wood and still somewhat survived!

You mean we should all resort to burning whale oil, seal fat, and drift wood, like the innuit and eskimo?
That would be super effective, and the solution scales so well!

AirPatriot AirPatriot 1:00 pm 15 Nov 10

“Wood smoke is the new cigarette smoke. How long did it take for people to understand secondhand smoke and the health impacts? Now, the same thing is happening with wood smoke, which contains many of the same carcinogens as cigarette smoke, plus dioxins and fine particulate matter.”

Postalgeek Postalgeek 11:39 am 15 Nov 10

I’m going to print out this thread and burn it.

Pommy bastard Pommy bastard 11:31 am 15 Nov 10

Wood heaters weighed in the balance:


1) It has recreational value for some
2) Some people find it cheap
3) It annoys pedants.

rosscoact rosscoact 11:09 am 15 Nov 10

I’ve got ducted gas heating and so I installed a smoker cabinet in my back yard to enable people to smell the joy of woodsmoke mixed with cooking meat the whole year round.

you’re welcome

colourful sydney racing identity colourful sydney racing identity 11:05 am 15 Nov 10

vsteblin said :

To “colourful sydney”, I am just “venting” like the wood burners. A few more burners could also shut up their flues. Ain’t gonna happen, is it, until bylaws change!

What are you a terminator? Why won’t you die??????

kristo kristo 10:49 am 15 Nov 10

Wood heaters weighed in the balance:


1) It has recreational value for some
2) Some people find it cheap


1) It kills
2) It makes people seriously sick
3) It aggravates existing lung conditions
4) It reduces ammenity (use of yards, windows, clothes lines etc by neighbours)
5) It supports the economics of land clearing
6) It depletes habitats
7) It adds to global warming through methane and other gases plus soot
8) Resources are misallocated because of a market price failure of wood fuel

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