Wood Smoke Pollution
Smoke from wood heaters is a major cause of air pollution. During winter, wood heaters can produce two to three times as much particle pollution as cars. A smoking fire can waste your money, but the air pollution it causes can also affect our health.
Wood smoke contains a number of noxious gases (including carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, and a range of organic compounds, some of which are toxic or carcinogenic) and fine particles, which go deep into the lungs.
These pollutants can cause breathing difficulties even at relatively low levels, especially for people suffering existing respiratory conditions, such as asthmatics, and for very young children and frail older people.
There is also evidence that smoke pollution can cause cardiac problems.
If you can see or smell smoke then you are causing a problem for yourself, your family and your neighbours.
Health impacts of wood smoke
During winter, smoke from domestic wood heaters causes substantial amounts of air pollution. Pollutants in the smoke include:
- gases such as carbon monoxide
- organic compounds, including air toxics
- fine particles, formed when unburnt gases cool as they go up the chimney; in the air, these can be seen as white smoke.
Who is at risk?
Wood smoke pollution affects everyone. It is harmful to the health of wood heater users and the health of others in the community. Health effects depend on the extent of a person's exposure to woodsmoke, age and current state of wellbeing.
People who are more at risk include:
- infants and very young children
- those suffering from existing cardiac or respiratory conditions, such as asthma
- those with vascular complications from diabetes
- frail elderly people.
You can be affected by woodsmoke inside and outside your home from your own wood heater or from other wood heaters in your neighbourhood.
Smoke Abatement Notices
Under legislation commenced in 2006, where a householder has been given information on correct wood heater operation but makes little or no effort to prevent excessive emissions of wood smoke, Council may issue a smoke abatement notice.
It is an offence to fail, without reasonable excuse, to comply with a smoke abatement notice while the notice is in force. Council may issue a penalty notice for failure to comply with a smoke abatement notice. The penalty notice imposes a fine of $200 for individuals and $400 for corporations.
For more information, please contact Council's Wood Smoke Project Officer on 02 6581 8111 or visit the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) website at http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/woodsmoke/index.htm