03 August 2018

In cooler temperatures, the thought of a cosy fireplace may be appealing but environmental health experts warn wood-fired heaters are actually the biggest source of air pollution in Sydney over winter.

NSW Health’s Environmental Health Branch Director Dr Ben Scalley said that at this time of year smoke from domestic wood heaters contributed up to 75 per cent of the particulate matter (PM) air pollution in Sydney and many regional centres across the state.

Particulate matter air pollution refers to the small particles in smoke.

“Some people may be unaware of the health impacts that wood heaters can have on their health and the health of their community,” Dr Scalley said.

“Exposure to this pollution can have a variety of health effects ranging from irritated eyes, nose and throat, to more severe effects including progression of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and serious effects of those diseases such as asthma attacks and heart attacks.”

“Especially in metropolitan areas it is important to consider other options to heat your house.”

About 10 per cent of households in NSW use wood heaters as the main heating source.

If you have a wood-burning heater:

  • check your heater conforms with the Australian Standard and that the heater and chimney are installed in line with council-specific building requirements to reduce the air pollution produced
  • burn only dry, well-seasoned and chemically untreated wood to reduce the air pollution produced
  • ensure fresh air enters the room to prevent carbon monoxide build-up
  • check your chimney - if there is visible smoke, increase the airflow to the fire.