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Wood smoke and your health

Thursday 20 April 2017 Wood fires will keep many locals warm this winter but please only use small pieces of hardwood that are aged and dry and don’t let your fire smoulder overnight.

With the first of season’s cold nights creeping in, Bega Valley Shire Council is asking owners of wood fires to burn fuel safely and considerately.

Council’s Environmental Health Coordinator, Greg O’Donnell said a fire burning efficiently with the right kind of fuel will save money and have a much reduced impact of human health and the environment.

“Some of our inland towns and villages will be experiencing subzero temperatures at night soon and people will naturally be keeping the fire well stoked,” he said.

“It’s worth remembering however, that smoke from a wood heater produces 2 to 3 times as many pollutants as a car.”

According to the Asthma Foundation of NSW, wood smoke contains noxious gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

Mixed with sunlight the resulting chemical reactions form ozone - one of the most harmful components of smog. When inhaled, these fine particles can aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma, which affects 1 in 10 Australians.

“There are a range of simple strategies that people can employ to reduce the risks from wood smoke particularly for your neighbours,” Mr O’Donnell said.

“Only use small pieces of hardwood that are aged and dry, and don’t let your fire smoulder overnight. One of the worse things you can do is to dampen down your fire overnight, it generates very little heat and instead produces lots of smoke.”

You can also make sure your heater is up to standard by checking it has a compliance plate stating it conforms to the Australian Standard for pollution emissions (AS4013), if it doesn’t you might consider upgrading your heater to a newer more efficient model.

“It’s crucial that other burnable material like plastics and treated pine are not burnt, they can be extremely harmful to people’s health and the environment,” Mr O’Donnell said.

Check your flue, chimney and baffle regularly for a build-up of soot or creosote because if left to build up these can lead to fires within the flue or worse still in your roof cavity. 

“It’s for this reason that we always recommend cleaning your chimney at the end of every winter,” Mr O’Donnell said.

Please contact Council for further advice on 6499 2222 or check the EPA website.

Photograph: Wood fires will keep many locals warm this winter but please only use small pieces of hardwood that are aged and dry and don’t let your fire smoulder overnight.

END

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