Wood burning and your health

Burning wood or other solid fuels at home emits dangerous pollution both inside and outside the home, known as fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Fine particulate matter is known to cause serious illnesses, such as asthma, lung cancer, COPD and stroke.

Domestic solid fuel accounts for 38% of primary particulate matter emissions in the UK - the largest source of fine particulate matter and is three times higher than from road transport. For more info, go to ‘Health Matters : Air Pollution’.

Wood burning is not a ‘climate-friendly’ way of heating your home. As well as producing PM2.5, burning wood emits more carbon dioxide than oil or gas. So please do your bit for climate emergency. If you don’t have electric heating, the next best option is to use gas or oil.  

* Dr Gary Fuller, Imperial College London article in www.ScienceFocus.com.

There is no proven safe level of PM2.5, and short and long-term exposure to PM2.5 can increase the risk of early deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.  PM2.5 is not visible to the naked eye, so even ‘smokeless’ fuels and efficient appliances may still produce a significant amount of air pollution.

Solid fuel burning stove

What are you burning in your open fire or stove?

As winter draws in, please check that you’re using approved stoves, appliances and fuel to help reduce air pollution both in and outside your home. The City of Bath is a designated Smoke Control Area, which means it’s illegal to burn smoky fuels such as wood and coal in an open fireplace or in a non-approved wood burning or multi-fuel stove. To view a map of the smoke control area, go to www.bathnes.gov.uk/smokecontrolmap . 

Under the Clean Air Act, if you don’t comply with the law, you can be fined up to £1,000. If you live outside the Smoke Control Area, there are currently no restrictions to what you can burn, but we recommend that you follow the guidelines below.

The image below is taken from the Government’s Clean Air Strategy and illustrates the relative emissions from domestic heating and how this can affect your indoor air quality:

What can I burn in my open fire or stove?

Authorised fuels

In a smoke control area, unless you are using an exempt appliance, you can only burn fuel on the list of authorised fuels from Defra, such as anthracite or low volatile steam coal. For a full list, go to https://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/fuels.php

Approved/exempt appliances

In a smoke control area, you can only burn unauthorised fuels such as wood, wood chips and wood pellets in boilers, cookers and stoves that are approved by Defra as ‘exempt appliances’. However, you should only use the type of fuel that the manufacturer says can be used in it. For a full list of exempt appliances, go to https://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/appliances.php

Financial assistance

To enquire about financial assistance to make energy efficiency improvements to your home, go to https://www.energyathome.org.uk


PM2.5 is monitored on the London Road in Bath and most recent annual levels are equal to the World Health Organization’s guideline levels. PM10 (larger particulate matter not exceeding 10 micrometres) is also monitored on London Road and Lower Bristol Road and are close to the World Health Organization’s guideline levels, but within the UK Nation.  There is no proven safe level of PM2.5, so the more we can do to reduce emissions the better.

Recent annual measurements of PM2.5 in Bath and legal standards

PM10 in Bath with national and WHO legal standards

For more information on the work the Council is undertaking re the Climate Emergency, click here.

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