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!]


What's Your Opinion?


Please login to post your comments, or connect with
131 Responses to Wood smoke is toxic
Filter
Order
1 2 3 7 Next »
Chaz Chaz 1:48 pm 12 Nov 10

kristo said :

Point one: when you burn a dead tree (and these are typically not replaced) you get an immediate release of greenhouse gas at the very time we need to urgently reduce it (before we reach a tipping point) and destroy valuable habitat which is also not being replaced. Secondly, wood fuel supports the economics of land clearing see:

Strategic study of household energy and greenhouse issues a report for environment Australia http://www.energyrating.gov.au/library/pubs/pears-ago1998.pdf

Moreover wood pollution from home heaters is worse than coal burned in power stations because it is burned inefficiently. Of most concern is that people turn them down at night to let them smoulder which produces methane, about the worst thing you can do for green house pollution.

I note that so far I’m the only one providing reputable sources for my comments…

or instead of just believing what ever the gov tells you, maybe research some information on your own time. maybe you’ll find that human caused “global warming” is nothing more than a money making scheme. if you honestly think humans are responsible for the earths demise in only 150 or so years after it’s been here for 4-6 billion, you need to wake up.

it annoys me that people will get on their high horse and complain about something so trivial when there are much larger problems to deal with

trix trix 1:45 pm 12 Nov 10

Apologies, I saw that reference subsequently to some ACT paper that said that paddock trees are used for burning and are typically not replaced. I would like to see a comparison of the net forest cover across the country or at least the east coast. Because while paddock trees may not be replaced in their original locations due to fire concerns, people seem to be planting new trees on their properties all the time (in different locations).

And I really don’t think wood-burning pollution creates the most impact in terms of carcinogenic toxins in the air these days – you want to look at cars and industrial chimneys first.

trix trix 1:41 pm 12 Nov 10

I note you don’t address the point that in Australia, most electricity is generated by burning coal and therefore has a higher ecological impact as well as being non-sustainable.

I also note you don’t cite where your assertion came from that trees are “typically not replaced” when harvested for fuel. I would say that that opinion is founded on pretty much nothing at all in this country.

Finally, burning trees for heating apparently has a net neutral balance in terms of carbon pollution – sure, carbon is released when the tree is burned, but it was sequestered for many years while the tree was growing.

Solidarity Solidarity 1:35 pm 12 Nov 10

There are problems with the current air?

Lets ban everything.

Next up: Burnt toast gives you cancer!

kristo kristo 1:26 pm 12 Nov 10

What am I trying to achieve? Well, good decisions depend upon good information so I am contributing to that.

As for policy possibilities, it is clearly fiscal folly to pay people to take wood heaters out while you allow other people to put them in. We need to prohibit new installations immediately.

That does not affect existing users and others considering a future purchase would simply be steered by this policy to cleaner options before they commit causing little angst except to retailers (who can switch their inventories to other products including flame effect models).

And for each person who makes a cleaner heating choice per year at least 10 people will benefit indefinitely. (I say 10 because each house has around 5 neighbours – including rear corner blocks – and each house has around 2 occupants). Of course, the number of beneficiaries rises when the air quality of the broader community is considered.

If we do this then the replacement subsidy will eventually provide a real divided to the health and well being of the community.

GBT GBT 12:35 pm 12 Nov 10

The question is what are you trying to achieve with this diatribe?

shadow boxer shadow boxer 12:32 pm 12 Nov 10

I have a reputable source, my wife, it wasn’t until I installed the biggest wood burning slow combustion heater on the market that she finally stopped complaining she was cold.

You’re not getting it back…

capn_pugwash capn_pugwash 12:29 pm 12 Nov 10

so now methane is the problem? ban lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas I say! …or find a way to heat the house by burning methane…. something mr pugwash would love

kristo kristo 12:09 pm 12 Nov 10

Point one: when you burn a dead tree (and these are typically not replaced) you get an immediate release of greenhouse gas at the very time we need to urgently reduce it (before we reach a tipping point) and destroy valuable habitat which is also not being replaced. Secondly, wood fuel supports the economics of land clearing see:

Strategic study of household energy and greenhouse issues a report for environment Australia http://www.energyrating.gov.au/library/pubs/pears-ago1998.pdf

Moreover wood pollution from home heaters is worse than coal burned in power stations because it is burned inefficiently. Of most concern is that people turn them down at night to let them smoulder which produces methane, about the worst thing you can do for green house pollution.

I note that so far I’m the only one providing reputable sources for my comments…

A Noisy Noise Annoys An Oyster A Noisy Noise Annoys An Oyster 12:00 pm 12 Nov 10

Whoops … I meant “pedophilia and child pornography charges”. During the court case he claimed he was acting on behalf of the CIA to try and find out how easy it was to groom children and access child porn.

A Noisy Noise Annoys An Oyster A Noisy Noise Annoys An Oyster 11:58 am 12 Nov 10

I seem to recall the last person who moaned about pollution from wood-fired heaters was one Tony Savage who stood as a candidate on that platform in the 1998 ACT election and who was later sent to jail on pedophilia and child molestation charges.

ConanOfCooma ConanOfCooma 11:53 am 12 Nov 10

I don’t suppose you’ve noticed that it was freakin’ hot the last few nights? Anyone with a fire going is either “gifted” or elderly, so stop picking on retards and codgers.

Would you prefer us to source our heat via electricty, thus burning coal (which is much worse for the environment) to keep warm?

A quick look around Queanbeyan would reveal many industrial sites located within the valley, which isn’t naturally ventilated in the best way, which would be a more likely source of the smoke.

Also, ACT reports are exactly that – ACT reports. Queanbeyan is in NSW! But this is on par with the rest of your article.

If you knew anything about burning wood, you would also know that you can’t chop down a green tree and burn it (well, you can’t do it SENSIBLY). You need to use dead, dry wood, which more than likely is sourced from a fallen tree on the ground. Are you suggesting that when these dead, and fallen, trees are cut up for firewood, we should source more dead trees to replace them?!?

As a rule of thumb with our wood carting trips, the only dead wood we don’t take is either rotten or is hollow.

capn_pugwash capn_pugwash 11:52 am 12 Nov 10

so isn’t this why people got rid of their coal fires and switched to burning wood?? much less air pollution plus a renewable resource. As far as I’m aware ‘paddock trees’ are not an endangered species & plenty more get planted as windbreaks, erosion control etc on farms these days to make up for them.

kristo kristo 11:50 am 12 Nov 10

There have been many studies into health effects including the health costs associated with the current dirty Australian voluntary standard – an attempt was made to lower this in 2007 but this failed because of industry opposition.

According to a paper prepared by economic and environment consultants commissioned by the Dept of Environment in 2006 (just before the attempt to lower the standard)the value of health benefits of reducing pollution from wood heaters by moving to a standard closer to that permitted in NZ would be $1billion (BDA Group).

See http://www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/publications/pubs/wood-particle-emissions.pdf

As for a description of medical issues behind these costs see the paper by the respiratory specialist Dr Markos who points out that the health effects of wood smoke have been shown consistently by several studies.

The levels in summer are usually 1 – 20 micrograms per cubic metre of air per day (ug/m3). The studies have shown that for every rise of 10 ug/m3 of daily particle concentrations, there is an increase of:
• 1% of daily deaths from all causes,
• 3% of daily deaths from lung causes,
• 3% of daily admissions to hospital for lung disease, and
• 3% of daily lung symptoms in the general population.

High particle levels (over 50 ug/m3) are consistently recorded on many winter days in Launceston, Canberra & Armidale.

See http://www.lungfoundation.com.au/lung-information/patient-educational-material/fact-sheets/100-health-impacts-of-wood-smoke.

As for carcinogens, see page 14 of this paper by the Washington Dept of Ecology
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/92046.pdf . Of particular concern is the fact that it contains a severe mutagen (polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons) which cause cancer and birth defects.

Nor can you keep this pollution out of yours or your neighbours houses as the emission particles are too small to be stopped by windows or doors. You breathe them in without knowing it and there are plenty of references for that.

It’s no joke. We shouldn’t be using wood heaters in built up areas…

Solidarity Solidarity 11:23 am 12 Nov 10

Where did you source this poorly researched, non scientific based opinion from? This is almost like Today Tonight, but in RiotACT form.

Go away.

Fiona Fiona 11:07 am 12 Nov 10

My rental property has a wood heater, and I have access to wood. So I’ll use it on those cold nights.

Jethro Jethro 11:00 am 12 Nov 10

This seems to be a problem confined to Tuggers. Should people in other areas of Canberra feel guilty for wood heating? I am seriously considering installing one in my house.

squashee squashee 10:54 am 12 Nov 10

Do you have any reputable source proving that wood smoke from heaters is carcinogenic? Of course if you happened to stick your head inside the heater and breathed the smoke continuously for months, you could receive a dangerous dose, but with the wood heater technology nowadays there should be little or no smoke released inside the house, and what is released outside will be diluted enough to cause little trouble.

Also, if you were to use treated pine there could be some safety issues, but most people use eucalypt. And, your problem with sustainability has nothing to do with wood fireplaces, as you will find that the majority of wood collected is from trees which are felled either naturally or for reasons other than sourcing firewood and firewood is just an added benefit.

Chaz Chaz 10:27 am 12 Nov 10

i have a fireplace and will be disgusted if the gov try and force me to stop using it. it’s my home, i choose to heat it. go away

lobster lobster 10:25 am 12 Nov 10

There are far fewer than there were 10 years ago and no one died from smoke inhalation 10 years ago.

Perhaps you could pay for them to get central gas heating?

Tablespoon of cement?

1 2 3 7 Next »

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top

Search across the site