Wood Burning in the UK – Air Quality Implications

Wood Burning in the UK

As we slowly start to leave winter behind for another year, we can finally look forward to it being light at seven o’clock in the evening and make the most of the last few weeks of cosying up in front of the log burner. But after months of wood burning within our homes, the impacts on air quality can be far reaching.

Particulate Matter

Particulate matter is a non-gaseous pollutant, suspended in air or liquid. It’s formed from natural sources such as pollen, but can also come from human origins such as dust from tyres and brakes and smoke from fires. As particulate matter can be very small, with some fractions less than 1/40th of a human hair in diameter, it can easily be inhaled into the lungs and transported around the rest of the body, causing both short and long term health effects.

Wood Burning

The use of wood as a domestic fuel has increased markedly over the last 20 years, with people choosing to purchase a wood burning stove to provide an additional form of heating within their home. According to the 2019 Clean Air Strategy, produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) this has led to emissions of particulate matter from wood burning stoves reaching 38% of the national total – nearly double that produced by transport emissions. As a result, it is now the UK’s primary source of particulate matter.

Outdoors, smoke from wood burning stoves can be transported far and wide with particulate matter deposited along the way. This means in areas where domestic burning does not take place, the effects of elevated particulate matter concentrations may still be experienced. In the home, effects can be far more concentrated with particulate matter being able to accumulate within confined spaces. As we spend more than 90% of our time indoors, this can have significant consequences for our health, especially for children and the elderly.

Redmore Environmental can provide both short and long term monitoring of particulate matter emissions to assist in determining the potential for exposure to elevated concentrations. This can be undertaken within the home and outdoors.


One of the most important factors to be considered when using log burners is the type of wood that’s burned. Dried and seasoned wood is the most efficient to use and will produces less smoke, and subsequently particulate matter, providing a cost effective and healthier choice. Logs that aren’t dry will cause a fire to smoulder and creates high levels of tar and smoke. Not only is this bad for your health, but will also damage your burner.

If you are concerned that smoke from a nearby property is affecting air quality in your area, or wish to discuss the effects of wood burning further, then please get in touch with us today.

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