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UK’s Particulate Pollution Reductions Are Offset by Wood-burning Stoves

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Recent government data highlights a worrying trend in the UK’s fight against air pollution: while there has been some progress in lowering particulate pollution from energy sources and highways, these advances have been mainly negated by a large increase in emissions from wood-burning stoves.

Domestic combustion, especially when using solid fuels like wood, has resulted in a 19% increase in PM2.5 and PM10 emissions between 2012 and 2022. The adoption of less polluting modes of transportation and energy production is at odds with this increase.

Wood-burning stoves have become increasingly popular because to its warm aesthetics; in the fourth quarter of 2022 alone, sales increased by 67%. There are currently 1.5 million of these gadgets in homes in the UK.

Due to their well-known detrimental effects on health, PM2.5 particles are a serious risk factor for a number of diseases, including cancer, heart and lung disorders, and preterm deliveries. According to studies, these particles are responsible for more than 400,000 preventable deaths in Europe each year.

Even “eco” wood-burning stoves produce a noticeable amount of hazardous air pollution as compared to gas central heating, even with efforts to promote environmentally friendly designs. The growing acceptance of solid fuel heating, according to Dr. Gary Fuller of Imperial College London, poses a threat to the advancements made in lowering air pollution from other sources.

The data also highlight previously unrecognized sources of air pollution, such as emissions from farming activities such the ammonia released from manure and fertilizers. Improving the environment and public health require addressing these sources.

The research indicates that 22% of PM2.5 emissions originate from home wood combustion, which makes a major contribution to the levels of emissions. The issue is further compounded by industrial biomass combustion, which has drawn criticism for government subsidies for the burning of trees at facilities like Drax to generate power.

Urgent action is required to reduce the negative effects of wood-burning stoves and other unrecognized sources of pollution, while simultaneously promoting cleaner options to protect the environment and public health, as the country struggles with poor air quality.

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