UK

Wet wood and coal for wood-burning stoves restricted from today

Anyone using a wood burning stove or open fire in the home from today must only use cleaner alternatives to wet wood and coal, a new law says.

Restrictions on the type of solid fuels that can be burned on domestic hearths have come into force in England as the government attempts to cut air pollution.

Wood-burning stoves and open fires are still allowed from 1 May but only fuels that reduce air pollution can be used in them, according to a statement announcing the change from the environment department (Defra) and environment minister Rebecca Pow.

Experts say burning house coal or wet wood is a major source of the pollutant PM2.5 – which has been identified by the World Health Organisation as a major risk for human health.

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PM2.5 is particulate matter around 2.5 micrometres across that can enter the bloodstream, lodge in lungs and other organs.

The law change follows the release two days ago of Defra figures showing air pollution across the UK fell to its lowest levels on record in 2020 as a result of coronavirus.

Ms Pow said in a statement: “We know air pollution at a national level has reduced significantly since 2010 – with emissions of fine particulate matter down 11% and nitrogen oxide 32% – but there is still a huge amount to do to tackle pollution from all sources, including transport, agriculture, industry and domestic burning.”

Burning wet wood is said to be responsible for polluting the air with PM2.5, a harmful particulate matter
Image:
Burning wet wood is said to be responsible for polluting the air with PM2.5, a harmful particulate matter

Senior policy and projects manager for air quality at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation Harriet Edwards welcomed the law change.

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She said: “Air pollution is harmful to everyone but for the millions of people in the UK with a lung condition such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it can put them at risk of suffering potentially life-threatening asthma attacks or flare-ups.

“It’s vital that we tackle all of these sources of air pollution and raise awareness about the dangers of air pollutants so people can make the best choices for their own health as well as the health of others around them.”

The restrictions, which form part of the government’s Clean Air Strategy, mean bagged coal and wet wood of less than two cubic metres cannot be sold, and larger amounts of wet wood can only be sold with advice about how to dry it before it is burnt.

The changes also mean manufactured solid fuels must have a low sulphur content and only emit a small amount of smoke.

In addition, suppliers will be required to make sure products are certified and labelled so they can be easily identified, and retailers will be limited to selling fuel with the correct label.

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