Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are being used by more and more people. But did you know that using them is a major contributor to harmful air pollution?

Even the cleanest eco-stoves can produce air pollution that can damage our health.

Tiny particles in stove and fire smoke can get deep into your lungs. They can cause all sorts of health issues, from asthma to heart disease.

As well as releasing air pollution, burning wood also produces carbon dioxide which contributes to climate change and harms the environment.

We all want to protect our families and the communities we care about from harm.

If you can, say no to burning wood and do your bit to help clean up our air.

There may be cheaper, healthier and greener ways to keep your home warm.

But if you have to burn at home this winter to keep warm: follow the rules, find out how to burn better, and keep us all safe.

Is burning at home bad for health?

Log burners might seem cosy, but tiny particles (PM2.5) in stove and fire smoke can

  • Damage your lungs and other organs.
  • Cause breathing difficulties, such as asthma.
  • Contribute to heart disease, lung cancer and stroke.

It affects us all. But children, older people, and people with existing health conditions are affected the most.

Burning solid fuels can also cause air pollution inside and outside the home. So it can affect you, your family and your neighbours.

How do I burn more safely?

If you do have to burn at home, take these simple steps to burn safely and efficiently.

  • Follow the rules: If you live in a Smoke Control Area you must burn approved fuels, or use a Defra exempt appliance.
  • Only burn clean fuels: Ensure bought wood has a moisture content of less than 20% or dried for at least two years. Or use ‘Ready to Burn’ approved manufactured solid fuels.
  • Don’t burn: Rubbish or general waste.
  • Keep it clean: Get your chimney swept each year, and your stove checked and cleaned regularly.
  • Put it out: Don’t let your fire smoulder overnight.

Top tips to ensure that your burner is as safe and efficient as possible

Making small changes to how you burn can help to produce more heat and reduce pollution.

Check for signs your wood is ready to burn:

  • It has a ‘Ready to Burn’ logo.
  • Weight: compare logs the same size. Heavier logs might still be wet.
  • Sound: a hollow sound when tapping can indicate it’s dry enough to burn
  • Moisture: Pick up a moisture meter It’ll show you if moisture levels are 20% or less before burning.

Don’t risk a house fire:

  • Get it swept: All in-use chimneys and flues need to be swept by a professional at least once a year.
  • Keep it clean: Keep your stove or burner clean and get it serviced.
  • Put it out: Slumbering your fire overnight can lead to the buildup of tar. Make sure yours is safe to use.

Don’t burn in your garden or allotment

  • Burning waste outdoors pollutes the air and can cause a nuisance to neighbours.
  • Never burn items like painted wood, wet or green wood, plastics and rubber.
  • Get rid of your waste safely and responsibly by composting, putting it in your council bin, heading to a recycling centre, or asking the council to remove bulky items.
  • Most people will be considerate if you explain that a bonfire is causing a problem. But if a chat doesn’t sort it out, you can report nuisance outdoor burning to your local council.

Find out more about burning better.

Get it under control: Smokeless Zones

There are smoke control areas (sometimes called smokeless zones) across Greater Manchester. That means:

  • You can’t release smoke from a chimney.
  • You can only burn authorised fuel, unless you use an appliance approved by Defra (also known as an ‘exempt appliance’ or ‘Defra approved appliance’).

People who break these rules can face financial penalties of between £300 and £1,000.

You can find out if you live in a smoke control area by visiting the relevant Greater Manchester local authority website at the bottom of this webpage. Some of these council webpages contain the information and others have contact details to find out more.

Worried about fuel bills this winter? Lately people have had to make difficult choices about how to heat their homes.

Here’s some pointers for better ways to keep your home warm:

How to contact your local council

You can visit your local council smoke and pollution webpages for more information about air pollution and smoke control areas:

Are woodburners and open fires a sustainable form of heating?

Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow. The carbon dioxide captured in wood is returned to the atmosphere when it is burned.

Manufactured solid fuels – also known as smokeless fuels – produce around 20% less carbon dioxide when burned than traditional coal.

Burning domestic solid fuels leads to emissions of PM2.5. The main solid fuels burned in the home are:

  • Smokeless coal (or anthracite) – a form of naturally occurring, mined, high-purity coal, authorised for use in smoke control areas.
  • Manufactured solid fuels – fuels manufactured from coal products with other ingredients that have low smoke emissions.  However, some do have high sulphur dioxide emissions.
  • Wet wood – a naturally occurring product.  Newly felled wood has a high moisture content and creates a lot of smoke when burned.  It has over double the emissions of seasoned or kiln dried wood.
  • Seasoned wood – wood that has been left for at least two  years to naturally air dry.
  • Kiln dried wood – wood that has been kiln dried to below 20% moisture.

What are your views?

To help us understand how people burn solid fuels at home in Greater Manchester, The University of Manchester is running a short research study.

This is running until 29 February 2024. Participants will be entered into a draw to win one of five food vouchers.

If you want to take part in the survey, go to: https://tinyurl.com/nar4a93b

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