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.
Woodsmoke 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 woodsmoke
During winter, smoke from domestic woodheaters 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?
Woodsmoke pollution affects everyone. It is harmful to the health of woodheater 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 woodheater or from other woodheaters in your neighbourhood.
New legislation commenced on 1 May 2006 giving Council officers the power to issue smoke abatement notices and on-the-spot fines of $200 to occupiers that allow excessive smoke to be emitted from chimneys on or in residential premises.
A smoke abatement notice directs a householder to undertake necessary improvements, maintenance or repairs to ensure that excessive smoke is not emitted from their chimney.