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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

“Wood burners are equivalent of driving 6 HGVs up and down your street”

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news just as Christmas is around the corner and many are looking forward to getting cosy in front of  “hygge” wood burning stoves. The best New Year’s Resolution you can make for the planet is to ditch them completely. 

Don’t take my word for it, listen instead to Dr Gary Fuller of King’s College who provides the title quote in this uncharacteristically brilliant episode of Start the Week which tackles the issue of clean air as well as our relationship to trees. The whole episode is worth 45 minutes of your time but Dr Fuller speaks in the last quarter about wood burning and the release of carbon into the atmosphere. 

If you’ve not got time, Gary Fuller also writes Pollution Watch at the Guardian and some of the short articles talk about the effect of wood burning and also what happens when people stop using wood as a fuel.

Tags for Forum Posts: air pollution, wood burning stoves

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Am sure gas central heating had an awfully to do with it.....

The Clean Air Act was enacted in 1956, way before most people had central heating.  Most people used coke or had electric fires.  I have vague memories of huddling around one at my Auntie Violet’s house in Ealing when we visited her in 1965.

i grew up in a mining town that wasn’t covered by the clean air act and everyone burned coal.  The stink, filth and yellow air on bad days (when mist came in from the sea) was appalling.  On certain days you couldn’t  hang out washing because it came in covered in soot.  The smog would be so thick that you couldn’t see further than a pace in front of you (and this was happening up to the late sixties/early seventies). Imagine what was happening inside our lungs.

I ditched my car 11 years ago when I moved to London. No need for it here.

Yes I heard this - interesting and shocking. I actually thought burning wood in London was also illegal under the original Clean Air Act, but people seem to have forgotten that.

Also interesting that even in the wilds of the countryside, people are breathing dirty air. It might seem cleaner without the diesel particles we get here, but it's still polluted.

The best thing we could do for climate change is stop taking flights all the time, but again, no-one seems to want to give up taking cheap breaks abroad (I include myself, although being perenially broke helps limit my travelling!)

Wood burning is permitted in Defra compliant burning appliances. 

I refer you to this article

Key part “New stoves pollute far less than open fires, but a recent report found that the limits for Ecodesign wood burners allow six times more particle pollution than the exhaust of a modern HGV equivalent to 18 new diesel cars“ (link should be to Defra’s own report on this).

Also people may burn contaminated wood which releases harmful emissions. 

No matter how hard we may try to convince ourselves otherwise, these stoves (like cars and air travel) need to be abandoned. Question is will people do it without a shove in the right direction?

You have to feel for those who invested in diesel cars and wood burners thinking they were doing the eco thing.

I guess so, but unless everyone wants to turn their gardens into a giant backyard forest (and what a sight that would be up and down the Ladder roads, although I’m sure those pesky insurance companies might have something to say about it!) there’s no way to off-set that carbon.

In Montreal everyone installed them because of a terrible ice storm in 1998 that left people without power for weeks (which in Canada means v cold indeed and seems like an excellent reason) but the pollution problem as a result has caused horrendous winter smogs so they’ve had to act. It’s the same here. Whatever the reason was 10 or 20 years ago, the “solution” is worse than the problem so things have to change. 

There was PLENTY of warning about Diesel cars. People closed their ears because of the finances involved. Even I knew. I have SOME sympathy but certainly people should have been aware of how filthy the fuel is and how badly it burns.

The best thing we could do for climate change is stop taking flights all the time, but again, no-one seems to want to give up taking cheap breaks abroad (I include myself, although being perenially broke helps limit my travelling!)

Depending on how you measure things, car journeys may be worse for the environment/pollution than air travel. Particularly as planes have become more fuel efficient and carrying more passengers, whereas the trend in car journeys is an increasingly single occupancy.


I remember when I lived in the countryside we had a wood fire and diesel vehicles. I would have been breathing in dirty air all the time. Plus I had a long commute so we breathing in a lot of fumes.

Something else about the modern countryside is the effect of monoculture farming. The area I lived in had a lot of orchards. I don't think it's a coincidence that I'm allergic to apples now. Pollen is a pollutant too.



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