A real open fire offers an appeal unlike much else, a reflection of our primitive ancestry, a reminder of the allure of nature and they’re pretty lovely to sit and look at.
Yet, while wood and log burners may provide your house with a rustic feel and toasty warm comfort, there have been concerns raised over their impact on the environment and, potentially, your health.
With the government launching a review into the effects of wood burning stoves – environment secretary Michael Gove has been hinting he is considering restrictions, which London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been advocating for some time – is it worth considering both how dangerous your wood burner might be?
Here are some factors to consider:
While throwing the door of your wood burner open may allow you to bask in the glow, it can also let out some dangerous stuff. Wood burning releases a mixture of gases and particle pollution. Small particulate matter – referred to as PM2.5s (particles that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers) – can get into your lungs, and some experts suggest even your blood stream and organs, and can cause damage.
Long term health risks of ingesting smoke from your wood burning fire include: lung diseases, cancer and heart attack. Not only are PM2.5s dangerous, but – according to the British Medical Journal – wood burning nearly emits the same amount of these deadly particles as all road transport. The BMJ estimates number of deaths in the UK from PM2.5s related air pollution is a staggering 29,000.
One of the dangers from wood burning fires may occur when it’s not even on. Yet, this danger is pretty easy to avoid. When your logs are burnt, what do you do? Put the ash somewhere, presumably a bin. Well, embers in the ash can actually produce Carbon Monoxide (CO) – a potentially deadly gas. Ash that is left by the fire indoors can quickly fill the room with CO. While this risk is serious, putting the ashes outside can easily mitigate it.
It may seem obvious that lighting a fire may come with a fire risk, but the risk is even more acute when it comes to log burning stoves. Often logs (for refuelling) are left next to the fire, these logs can catch fire and cause a blaze. Also, wet wood (which shouldn’t be used) may lead to a creosote build up in your chimney and this carries a significant risk of chimney fire if left uncleaned. Of course, any burners not placed on a fire resistant base can run the risk of fire that way as well.