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Scientific review questions impact of domestic burning

The findings of a new independent scientific review commissioned by HETAS and supported by the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA), have drawn attention to the uncertainty around how much domestic burning contributes to UK air pollution.

Accurate measurements will help to find solutions for the worst polluters.

The Clean Air Strategy 2019 currently attributes 38 per cent of UK particulate matter emissions to the domestic burning of solid fuel. However, scientists now believe this could have been overestimated since it does not distinguish between different burning sources.

HETAS commissioned a critical review to better understand current particulate matter emissions estimates and highlight the need for more accurate evidence-based information to be gathered. This will help the industry and Government to prioritise resources and take action to reduce emissions from the highest emitting sources.

The key findings from a review of the Impact of Domestic Combustion on UK Air Quality found:

  • Previous studies may not have considered the wide and varied sources of biomass burning i.e. unregulated domestic burning (chimineas/ firepits, garden waste bonfires, outdoor cooking) and prescribed burning (agriculture and land management)
  • Current estimates are based on findings using old equipment and indicators that are unable to distinguish between different biomass burning sources
  • The weight of wood fuel used in the UK and the application of an estimated emissions factor for this weight have likely been overstated
  • Open fires and old wood burning stoves may be responsible for up to half of the attributable PM emissions for domestic burning and need to be replaced with modern Ecodesign compliant clean-burning stoves

Bruce Allen, chief executive of HETAS and Woodsure, explained: “This review strongly suggests the need for more accurate research. This will enable HETAS and the broader industry to support the Government in driving consumer awareness in the right areas to minimise the impact of domestic burning in the home.

“In the meantime, there are practical steps that can be taken immediately to reduce carbon and particulate emissions in the home by up to 90 per cent, compared to burning coal in an open fire. It’s important that we continue to work with installers and chimney sweeps to get this message across and raise awareness of the need for safe, efficient and environmentally responsible burning.”

11 December 2019

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