Like other cities in Europe, London is returning to home heating with wood burning. However, this is a major factor in the smog that prevailed in the city until the 1960s.

For two decades, the official energy statistics of the UK showed that wood-burning was too small to be quantified. But a survey in 2016 by the government showed that 7.5% of London's homes burned wood that could make up 25% to 31% of particle emissions.

A new study reveals that domestic wood burning has contributed three times the amount of small particle pollution of traffic in the UK. 

Wood Burning Now the Biggest Cause of Particle Pollution in the UK

The Guardian reported that only 8% of the UK population causes wood-burning pollution by burning wood indoors. Almost half of them are affluent and chose wood burning indoors for aesthetic purposes rather than for heating their place.

But it releases small particle pollution that is harmful to the health as it can enter the bloodstream and lodge in organs. Government statistics reveal that domestic wood burning in both closed stoves and open fires are responsible for 38% of the small pollution particles under PM2.5 in 2019. 

That had more than doubled since 2003 and an increase of 1% by 2018 and 2019. Also, it is over there times the PM2.5 of traffic pollution in 2019m, which is 12%.

The UK government is not placing a ban on wood burners but will be implementing a ban on the retail sale of wet wood, which produces higher levels of pollution, on May 1 as well as on bags of house coal. This is the first restriction since the Clean Air Acts in the 1950s.

Scientists have already warned that domestic wood-burning triples the level of small particle pollution, so wood should be sold with a health warning. On the other hand, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation asked people to only use indoor burners when there is no alternative source of heat.

But statistics showed that two-thirds of the population in the country who burn wood at home are living in urban areas where levels of dirty are high. Even though 96% of them have other sources of heat, they still prefer indoor burners out of habit and to create a homely feel in their house.

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How Wood Is Burnt Is Important

According to London Air, how wood burnt is also important. About 69% of people were burning wood in open fires in 2014, a practice banned in the capital by smoke control areas under the Clean Air Acts.

Wood burning in a closed stove emits less particle pollution compared to fireplaces. New ecodesign stoves will even offer lower air pollution rates, but it is still equivalent to 18 new Euro 6 diesel cars.

"One of the ways to tackle wood burning is to get more information out to people, as they have in New Zealand, to encourage people to burn their wood better," says Gary Fuller of Imperial College London. "We have to engage and the starting point is to know who is burning wood and why they are doing so, and that is what this survey does."

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