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Is your warm, cosy fire doing more harm than you think?

9 November 2023

Residents with real coal fires or wood burning appliances are encouraged not to burn this winter to help reduce dangerous air pollution in the borough. 

Even the most modern wood-burning stoves produce health-damaging air pollution that affects local air quality, so residents are encouraged not to burn or to use exempt stoves or open fireplaces for special occasions only, and to ensure they always burn an authorised dry fuel with the ‘Ready to Burn’ logo. Please check the label of any fuel before it is purchased. Authorised fuels will say that the product is suitable to burn in a Smoke Control Area. 

After transport, wood burning stoves and coal fires are the single largest source of the pollutant ‘PM2.5’ – tiny particles that once inhaled can increase the risk of stroke, asthma, lung cancer, heart disease and dementia. This is particularly concerning during the winter months for those with underlying respiratory or cardiovascular health conditions. It is estimated that around 4,000 premature deaths occur each year in London due to long-term exposure to air pollution, of which about 284 are attributable to domestic wood burning. Every one of those 284 deaths is completely avoidable.

As part of our Air Quality Action Plan, we are working with residents to tackle local sources of emissions, improve air quality and make the borough a nice place to be. For many years Richmond upon Thames has been a ‘Smoke Control Area’. This means that you cannot emit a significant amount of smoke from a chimney and should use an authorised fuel or an appliance approved by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It is important to use dry storage as any damp fuel may cause smoke. You can be fined if you break the Smoke Control Area rules. 

We have collaborated with 17 other local authorities to form the Defra-funded London Wood Burning Project. Last winter, with the support of Imperial College London, we carried out monitoring both inside and outside of homes to try to see the health effect of different forms of inside burning. This year, the London Wood Burning Project has launched a London-wide campaign which runs from 6th November 2023. This aims to improve public awareness of the negative effects domestic wood burning can have on your health by highlighting impacts which range from increased asthma cases to reductions in life expectancies. 

To learn more about wood burning in the borough visit the Smoke control, domestic wood burners and bonfires page.

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Up to: November 2023

Updated: 9 November 2023

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