Majority of Londoners support ban on of toxic wood burners

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More than two-thirds of Londoners support a ban on toxic wood burners that are the biggest ‘tiny particle’ pollution risk to health in Britain. Fashionable log burning stoves, along with coal burning fires, are the biggest source of pollutant PM2.5 which penetrates deep into the heart and lungs, and has also been linked to dementia and depression.

Overall polluted air is estimated to cause up to 38,000 early deaths a year in England. Wood fires produce three times more tiny particles than traffic pollution and have been identified as producing the most “serious pollutant for human health” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, produced a report highlighting the wood burning method of heating produces 450 times more small particle pollution than gas heating. Now a poll for the Guardian indicates support for banning these types of heating sources is highest in the nation’s capital.

The survey found 67 per cent of Londoners supported a full ban, with just 17 per cent opposed and 16 per cent saying they did not know. In the rest of the UK just under half, 44 per cent, supported a full ban with 36 per cent saying they were opposed.

Government figures show despite coal burning emissions decreasing massively since the 1970s, wood burning has increased significantly with emissions of the dangers PM2.5 increasing by 124 per cent between 2011 and 2021.

According to the Guardian, only eight per cent of UK homes burn solid fuels indoors contributing significantly to large amounts of this type of pollution for the wider population.

In a poll conducted by Omnisis, posed the question: “Wood burners are significant contributors to air pollution in urban areas. Do you think they should be banned in towns and cities?”

There was strong support for the ban in the over-75s with nearly 60 per cent in favour and 32 per cent opposed.

Across the country support was highest in London, followed by the East Midlands, but in Wales, Scotland and in the North West and Yorkshire more people disagreed with banning the heating source.

New UK guidelines require any new wood burners to meet an “eco” benchmark since the start of 2022. Damp wood, which is four times more polluting than dry wood, has been banned from sale from May 2022. The poll questioned 1,258 people on 15 and 16 February. Omnisis is a member of the British Polling Council.

Wood burners have effectively been banned in refurbished or new London homes over air pollution concerns. Under planning guidance announced by the Mayor Sadiq Khan earlier this month, air pollution limits for home and office developments would be breached if burners for logs or other solid fuels were installed.

Home burning of solid fuel (wood and coal) is now estimated to produce around 39 of the particle pollution (PM2.5) emitted in the UK, even more than that from road transport. This makes it the largest single source of PM2.5 pollution in the UK.

Currently, around 150,000 to 200,000 wood stoves are sold in the UK each year. But in London, new purchases may come to a grinding halt due to Mr Khan’s new planning guidance which is now enforced across all boroughs of the city.

It covers new buildings and refurbishments big enough to warrant planning permission. Developers are also urged to meet air quality standards by installing solar panels, heat pumps, cycle storage and electric vehicle charging.

Mr Khan said: “Toxic air is a matter of life and death, causing around 4,000 premature deaths every year in London, and leading to asthma in the young and dementia in the elderly. I have made it a top priority to tackle London’s air pollution and the climate crisis.”

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