Fireplaces and stoves are bigger polluters than traffic
Fireplaces and stoves are now the largest single source of primary particle pollution in the UK, greater than traffic and industry. About 40% of the UK’s primary particle pollution comes from just 7% of homes that burn solid fuel. Will the new ban on sales of coal and wet wood in England help the problem or risk making it worse?
In 1950s Britain, replacing coal with so-called smokeless fuel (made from powdered coal and industrial waste coke) was the main solution to our smogs. London’s particle pollution decreased by 66% in just 10 years. A similar ban was implemented in Dublin in 1990 and particle pollution decreased by 70% in one year.
These are dramatic improvements but after the ban the cities were still significantly polluted by solid fuel. In London the gradual rollout of gas central heating played an important role in continuing to improve air pollution through the 1970s.
Banning the sale of wet wood has not been tried before. According to the UK government, burning wet wood produces about four times as much particle pollution as dry wood. However, wet wood accounts for about only 20% of the total being burnt, limiting the potential impact of the ban.