Support our Nation today - please donate here

Air quality expert warns of increasing pollution issue in Wales from wood burning

10 Mar 2023 4 minute read
Photo by Jeremy Marx from Pixabay

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

An air quality expert said burning wood to heat homes was an increasing pollution issue in Wales, and he questioned whether those who did it cared about the impacts.

Emeritus professor Paul Lewis, of Swansea University’s school of medicine, said better information was needed at all levels and that this could help people with wood burners make decisions.

The issue was discussed in a Swansea Council scrutiny meeting, where councillors were told that tighter regulation was being considered by the Welsh Government. Prof Lewis said he expected this would affect suppliers, covering things like the type of wood sold and its moisture content.

The Welsh Government said burning dry, seasoned wood, especially when using a modern, efficient wood burner, emitted significantly less fine particulate matter than burning wet wood.

A spokesman said: “We have consulted on restricting the sale of wet wood and house coal, and expect to publish a summary of responses the spring. This will include details of our proposed next steps in this area.”

But ministers are mindful of any restriction or prohibition which impacted on fuel poverty, especially in rural areas where wood was the primary source of heat.

Cllr Mary Jones brought up the issue, saying people living upwind of wood-burning houses had to put up with the emissions. “I have to say, they absolutely stink, is the best way to put it,” she said.

Tom Price, the council’s lead pollution control officer, said 21% of emissions of a tiny pollutant which penetrated deep into the lungs and could enter the bloodstream, called PM2.5s, were caused by wood burning. He said the number was previously thought to have been 38%.

Prof Lewis, who has been working with the Welsh Government on the matter, said: “Wood burning is an increasing problem in Wales, and I think the council is right to highlight that, not just in Swansea.”

He said there was a question of whether people who burned wood “care or not”, and added: “I think that’s our biggest problem. So the government are looking at strategies for behavioural change in terms of educating people with wood burners in terms of health impacts etcetera.”

Cardiovascular and respiratory diseases

The impacts, he said, particularly affected people with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Cllr Will Thomas said it was an important matter, but added: “We don’t want to become a nanny state telling people what they can and cannot put in their stoves. That would be an issue for me.”

Prof Lewis said owners of wood burners would benefit from better information about what they put in them and what the associated impacts were. He said the impacts affected the owners as well as neighbours.

Cllr Jones said she disagreed with Cllr Thomas’s “nanny state” comment, saying that neighbours had no choice but to live next to people with wood burners.

Cllr Jones said there was one householder she was aware of where builders dropped off waste wood of all descriptions. She said it appeared to be used for two wood burners inside.

Mr Price said council officers could investigate, and that people should never put treated timber in their wood burners. He added: “Trade should not be dropping off trade waste.”

Mr Price, when asked, said there were existing powers to deal with bonfires if they were deemed to be a nuisance. Mostly it involved the council advising and educating people. He added: “There is always the small minority where we will have to ‘go formal’.”

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 year ago

To answer the question: No, they do not care about the consequences of their actions, so as long as their own immediate needs are satisfied…and that is exactly to be expected, after all, ever since WWII (my grandmother’s generation) we have been raised and we have raised several generations under to consumerist capitalism import from the USA and it has been an unmitigated disaster for Cymru, the so-called UK and the world at large. When you raise people to believe that they are the centre of everything that ever existed and promise them all kinds of magic in return for… Read more »

1 year ago

Since humans have inhabited the planet, roughly two million years ago, they have burned wood to cook and keep warm. Without wood they would have probably perished and we would not be here. They did not burn coal, gas or oil. Suddenly wood is a no no. We have active volcanoes churning out toxic fumes and marsh gases etc. I bet the lords of the manors are still burning logs in their stately homes and will not take a blind notice of any legislation.

Last edited 1 year ago by Frank
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank

If you give a negative (thumbs down) to my comment I would appreciate a response from you. Giving thumbs down and no response is so easy and does not input anything into the subject in hand.

1 year ago
Reply to  Frank

Just cancelled that last remaining negative as I agree with you point. People have to heat their homes and burning properly dried wood is no big deal compared with gas heating, and all the different stages of pollution that go into generating electricity. And now the bright sparks want to be using lithium batteries even though it’s already known that lithium is horrendously polluting to extract and to dispose of it after use.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.