PLANS to phase out the sale of house coal and wet wood in England have been confirmed by the government.
Using cosy, wood burning stoves and coal fires in our homes now makes up the single largest contributor to our national emissions of particulate matter (PM).
Are wood burning stoves being banned?
No, the government isn’t blocking the sale of wood or coal-burning stoves in the UK.
Instead, “polluting fuels” used to warm up our homes inside such stoves are being banned in England only, to help clean up the air.
That’s because tiny particle pollutants – known as PM2.5 – can penetrate deep into lungs and the blood and cause serious health problems.
“By moving towards the use of cleaner fuels such as dry wood we can all play a part in improving the health of millions of people,” said Environment Secretary, George Eustice.
What types of fuel are being banned and when?
Sales of two of the most polluting fuels, wet wood and house coal, will be phased out from 2021 to 2023:
- Sales of all bagged traditional house coal (through retailers, supermarkets and DIY stores) will be phased out by February 2021
- Loose coal sold direct to customers via approved coal merchants will end by February 2023
- Sales of wet wood in units of under two cubic metres (such as at DIY stores and garden centres) will be restricted from sale from February 2021
- Wet wood sold in larger volumes will need to be sold with advice on how to dry it before burning from this date
- Manufacturers of solid fuels will also need to show their products have a very low sulphur content and only emit a small amount of smoke
- These regulations will apply in England only
Wet logs produce high levels of smoke – releasing more than twice the amount of smoke emissions than from seasoned or dry wood.
The heat output from burning wet wood is significantly reduced.
Also, the chemical buildup on the inside of stoves and chimneys can increase the risk of chimney fires, the government says.
Its gradual ban is aimed at giving householders and suppliers time to move to cleaner alternatives such as dry wood and manufactured solid fuels.
These produce less smoke and pollution, and are cheaper and more efficient to burn, officials add.
Do they cause pollution?
Air pollution is the top environmental risk to human health in the UK.
Two years ago, Dr Garry Fuller, air quality expert at King’s College in London, warned that wood burning stoves emit up to six times as much cancer-causing pollution as diesel trucks.
Researchers found they release tiny particles, known as PM2.5, which is the most harmful type of air pollution and is linked to asthma, heart attacks, strokes, cancer and dementia.
Professor Stephen Holgate, Royal College of Physicians’ special adviser on air quality, welcomed the government’s ban on the sale of polluting fuels.
He said: “Inhaling combustion particles from any source is harmful, but more so than ever when it’s directly within your home.
“Burning coal for heat and power has to stop and strong guidance is needed to insist that if wood is burnt in approved stoves, it is non-contaminated and dry.”
John Maingay, spokesman for the British Heart Foundation, said: “Wood and coal burning accounts for 40 per cent of harmful levels of background PM2.5 in the UK.
“And our research has shown that toxic PM2.5 can enter the bloodstream and damage our heart and circulatory system.
“Phasing out sales of coal and wet wood is a vital first step towards protecting the nation’s health from toxic air.”