Fears raised over impact of log burners on people’s health in Bristol

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees has responded to environmental concerns over log burners Bristol mayor Marvin Rees has responded to environmental concerns over log burners
Bristol mayor Marvin Rees has responded to environmental concerns over log burners | BBC / LDRS
‘We just have to take action in the areas we do have powers until the necessary ones come along’

Concerns have been raised about the health dangers of soot particles from an expected rise in the use of log burners this winter.

With gas prices set to rise, Bristolians with wood burners are expected to throw another log on the fire rather than switch on their heating to heat their homes.

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Wood burners produce very fine soot particles, known as PM2.5, which have been identified by the World Health Organization as the most serious air pollutant for human health.

The particulates can enter the bloodstream and lodge in the lungs and other organs, and are especially dangerous for asthmatics and people with lung conditions, putting them at risk of potentially life-threatening asthma attacks or flare ups.

A concerned Bristol resident asked city mayor Marvin Rees about the issue on broadcaster John Darvall’s show on BBC Radio Bristol on Thursday (October 14).

“Stuart” from Easton noted that Bristol City Council had received funding from Defra (the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) to tackle the “really fine soot” from wood burning stoves.

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He said: “We know that this fine soot causes half of premature deaths in Bristol every year, which are estimated to be 300 people.

“What is Bristol doing about the funding, given that the amount of wood burning is predicted to increase rapidly this winter as gas heating costs rise?”

Mr Rees said local authorities had “limited” powers to deal with the issue.

He said the council and Labour MPs Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) and Darren Jones (Bristol North West) had lobbied the Government for greater powers.

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“We just have to take action in the areas we do have powers until the necessary ones come along,” Mr Rees said.

“[Existing clean air legislation] won’t stretch to this at the moment, but wherever we can take action, particularly if things are anti-social, for example, then it does give us a window to intervene but we’re very limited.”

The law allows the use of wood burning stoves, open fires and log burners, but there are restrictions on the types of fuels and appliances that can be used.

Under the Clean Air Act 1993, Bristol is covered by a smoke control order.

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This means residents face fines of up to £1,000 if the smoke coming out of their chimneys is produced by burning an unauthorised fuel or by using an appliance that is not exempt. More details about the rules appear on the council’s website.

And, in May of this year, new legislation came into force in England placing restrictions on the sale of coal, ‘wet wood’ and manufactured solid fuels that can be burned in the home.

Wet wood, the cheap, chopped wood sold in net bags, produces more smoke and therefore more harmful PM2.5 particles because it contains more moisture than dried or treated wood.

Bagged coal and wet wood of less than two cubic metres can no longer be sold, and wet wood in larger volumes must be sold with advice on how to dry it before burning.

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The new rules also mean manufactured solid fuels must be cleaner, with a lower sulphur content and a limit on the amount of smoke they emit.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has approached the council for more information about Defra funding and how it is spent.

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