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Wood smoke pollution

Biomass Energy: Another Kind of Climate Change DenialBiomass Energy: Another Kind of Climate Change Denial



Biomass Energy: Another Kind of Climate Change Denial


– by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor (Graphic: Indiana Joel)

We’re all familiar with climate change deniers, cheerfully and/or willfully ignorant folk who refuse to accept that human-caused carbon emissions are responsible for the climate crisis — or that there even is a climate crisis. Those of us who value science and common sense typically have as much patience for these twenty-three percent of Americans as we do for anyone who believes that maggots arise spontaneously from rotting meat, witches cause disease, or the Earth is the center of the universe.

Recently, a subtler breed of climate change denier has emerged, spreading their propaganda and even infiltrating aspects of the environmental movement: biomass boosters. These advocates for the biomass energy industry often avoid detection by professing concern with carbon emissions. Yet, while cursing fossil fuels out of one side of their mouths, out of the other they bless the burning of one of the world’s greatest buffers against runaway climate chaos — our forests — for energy.

If the climate movement wants to win over the American people and influence policy, it needs to have credibility, which only comes through consistency, and that means distancing itself from the climate change deniers in our midst.

Forests = Carbon

Forests store and sequester mind-boggling amounts of carbon and are one of our last best hopes in fighting climate change. Cutting forests and burning them for energy in polluting biomass incinerators is perhaps the worst thing we can do when it comes to the climate threat.

Biomass incinerators emit higher levels of carbon dioxide per unit of energy than most coal-fired plants, the dirtiest fossil fuel, with some studies demonstrating up to a centuries-long time frame for the reabsorption of this carbon by future forests, and others showing a permanent increase in atmospheric CO2. Some of the more optimistic (and flawed) studies show it will still take decades for the carbon to be reabsorbed by forests cut for biomass energy. Yet, this assumes a forest cut for biomass will be protected and not logged again (a highly unlikely scenario), and will maintain the same rate of growth despite soil compaction, nutrient depletion, and erosion from past logging and impacts from climate change, including drought.

Even if that best case scenario were true, it’s irrelevant. Climate scientists insist the only way to reverse runaway climate change is to drastically cut our emissions now, not at some undetermined point in the future after emitting a massive pulse of carbon out the smokestacks of biomass incinerators.

Only when you bring up this point to biomass boosters do they reveal their true colors, proving that, despite pretensions, they really aren’t taking climate change that seriously at all.

Magic Tree Carbon

When pressed on the reality of curbing emissions today rather than in the year 2114, biomass advocates typically admit that carbon emissions from biomass incineration don’t count because they don’t come from the bad kind of fossil fuel carbon, but the good kind of “biogenic” carbon. In other words, you can cut and burn all the trees you want for energy, because the carbon they emit is harmless, basically a kind of magic tree carbon.

Of course, an eighth grade grasp of Earth science proves that the atmosphere doesn’t give a fig whether the carbon comes from trees, fossil fuels, or unicorn poop, because carbon is carbon is carbon.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been spending the last few years deciding how to measure carbon emissions from biomass energy (even though the only honest way to account for it is to tabulate what comes out of the smokestack), with vague plans to come out with its accounting framework for “biogenic” carbon by the end of 2014. The agency’s willingness to even entertain industry’s notion of magic tree carbon exposes the EPA for what it truly is: a political, rather than scientific body. The Obama administration has come out in support of biomass energy, chopping down the low-hanging fruit of “green” energy to make it seem like it’s actually doing something about the climate crisis.

One final point to bring up if you’re ever in a conversation with a biomass booster and really want to watch them squirm. Remind them that the supposedly “biogenic” carbon stored in any given tree actually includes some carbon sequestered from hundreds of years of burning fossil fuels, and when that tree is burned for energy, that carbon too is released back into the atmosphere. If they have a response to this, please contact me and let me know what it is, because I’ve yet to hear one.

Of course, chances are, no matter how much you question biomass boosters on carbon emissions, you won’t get any good answers out of them. Maybe that’s because most of them secretly believe — though they’ll never admit it, perhaps not even to themselves — that climate change simply isn’t that big of a deal.

Josh Schlossberg is editor of The Biomass Monitor. You can contact him at thebiomassmonitor AT gmail.com

Health Hazards of Wood Smoke Pollution

Dr. Brian Moench, M.D., of Utah Physician’s for a Healthy Environment gives an excellent overview of the health and environmental hazards of wood smoke pollution.



Dirty Wood-Heaters undoing Clean Car gains


Particle (PM2.5) pollution most dangerous to health

The most health-hazardous air pollutant is PM2.5 (tiny particles less than 2.5 millionth of a metre in diameter) that cause 10 to 20 times as many premature deaths as the next worst pollutant (ozone).

PM2.5 penetrate the deepest recesses of our lungs.  As well as causing lung disease, PM2.5 can enter the bloodstream and transport the toxins in air pollution all round the body, causing inflammation, heart disease, cancers, dementia, genetic damage in babies, increased risk of childhood asthma, autism, reduced IQ when children start school and attention problems.

0.4 kilograms less PM2.5 a year worth $980

New Australian standards add $980 to a $40,000 diesel SUV, but save “more than $1.5 billion in public health expenditure over the next 20 years” – see “Car pollution crackdown will save lives but comes at a cost”.

The standard for diesel cars and SUV was reduced from 0.025 grams PM2.5 per kilometre (required 2006/07 onwards) to 0.005 grams/km, avoiding 0.02 grams per km, i.e. 0.4 kilograms per year for a car travelling 20,000 km annually.  Avoiding 0.4 kg of PM2.5 per year is therefore worth at least $980 in reduced health costs.

Not installing a new wood heater worth $82,000!!

Woodsmoke is reported to be worse than car exhausts.  New wood-heaters have real-life emissions of about 9.8 grams of PM2.5 per kg of firewood burnt[1]. So a wood-heater burning Sydney’s average of 3.43 tonnes[2] emits 33.6 kilograms of PM2.5 per year. With an 0.4 kg reduction in annual PM2.5 emissions worth an additional $980 on the cost of a new diesel, not emitting 33.6 kg of PM2.5 a year by not installing a new wood-heater burning an average amount of firewood, is worth a whopping $82,354!  Even if we could halve average emissions from a new heater, the estimated health cost would still exceed $40,000.

Wood-heating Industry opposed cleaner wood-heaters

The Senate Inquiry “Impacts on health of air quality in Australia” concluded that the failure to manage wood-heater pollution was “a failure of the technical committee to reach consensus within the meaning of Standards Australia’s rules, which according to the minutes supplied to the committee was a result of opposition from industry representatives.”  What a terrible tragedy to have the health benefits of new vehicle standards undone by increased wood-heater use.

Largest PM2.5 pollution source increasing due to regulatory failure

As shown in the NSW EPA graph below (latest emissions inventory data – for the year 2008, published 2012), wood-heaters cause the lion’s share of Sydney’s wintertime health-hazardous PM2.5 emissions. Other major sources, road transport, industry, and non-road equipment are a much smaller fraction of the total.

NSW has 4.8 million vehicles, many of which use Sydney’s roads.  Tackling car pollution, but allowing just 70,700 households using wood as the main form of heating to damage the health of 4.6 million Sydneysiders seems like a short-sighed, inappropriate polity.  Woodsmoke PM2.5  emissions increased from 4503 tonnes in 2003 (34% of PM2.5 emissions) to 5669 (more than half of Sydney’s PM2.5 emissions) in 2008.  Emissions continue to increase – from 70,700 Sydney households burning wood in 2008 as the main heating to 83,000 in 2011 (ABS data).

Do people know that new wood-heaters emit more PM2.5 pollution (the most health-hazardous air pollutant) than 1,000 petrol or 200 diesel cars, or are they deceived by slick advertising?

Woodsmoke – the major source of pollution in mining towns!

Wood-heaters are the major source of PM2.5 pollution in many locations. The mining town of Muswellbrook is close to the Bayeswater andLiddell power stations (which generate enough electricity for 3.25 million homes, slightly more than the total of 2.7 million households in NSW). Despite this, a small proportion of households using wood-heaters cause 62% of Muswellbrook’s wintertime PM2.5 pollution[3].  The diagram below shows smoke from domestic wood heaters in yellow.  Smoke from burn-offs and forest fires, shown in green, is the 4th largest source of PM2.5 pollution, evident mainly from August to December.

PM2.5 pollution of 25 ug/m3 = everyone smoking 3 cigarettes per day = as damaging as current smoking rates

At a recent Senate Inquiry hearing into Air Pollution Prof Higginbotham stated that breathing air at the standard of 25 ug/m3 was equivalent to actively smoking 3 cigarettes.  One day in 2012, Armidale’s daily average PM2.5 from wood-smoke measured 65 ug/m3, as bad as forcing everyone – women, children, elderly residents, asthmatics and even babies – to smoke 7 cigarettes that day!  With tests on mice and bacteria showing woodsmoke causes 12 to 30 times as many tumours and mutations as the same amount of cigarette smoke[4, 5], the health effects of involuntarily breathing woodsmoke must be at least as serious as voluntary active smoking.

Large expenditure ineffective when new heaters are allowed

Many rural towns have high woodsmoke pollution.  Armidale has about 20,000 residents.  The local council stated in a submission to the Federal Government: “It is estimated that Council has committed more than $300,000 (excluding wages) in the past 10 years on wood smoke abatement measures.”  Despite this, average winter (June, July and August) PM2.5 pollution for 2008-2010 was 15% higher than in 1999, and also substantially higher than in the mining town of Muswellbrook.  Efforts to reduce pollution by removing old heaters were counter-acted by aggressive advertising from the wood heating industry.  New wood-heaters, installed in new, insulated houses, are causing almost as much pollution as the old heaters that were removed.

Health benefits of tackling woodsmoke pollution

Tackling wood-heater pollution has tremendous health benefits.  Deaths from respiratory diseases in winter fell by a whopping 28% and cardiovascular deaths by 20%, after Launceston’s $2.05 million program reduced use of wood-burning stoves from 66% to 30% of households[6].

Many woodsmoke pollution programs fail because local people do not know that new wood-heaters are almost as polluting as older models, or that the average brand-new wood-heater emits as many in PM2.5 in the first hour of operation as the average modern passenger car in an entire year.

Tandem health and climate benefits

Prof Piers Forster, lead author of the IPCC’s AR4 chapter Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing (setting out the scientific evidence that atmospheric changes are causing global warming) stated that  Reducing emissions from diesel engines and domestic wood and coal fires is a no-brainer as there are tandem health and climate benefits.”
Prof Drew Shindell, lead author of the
Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing chapter of the IPCC’s Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis also chaired the UN Environment Program (UNEP) research that recommended phasing out log-burning heaters in developed countries to reduce global warming.
A most significant threat to our planet is the warming that will occur in the next 20 years, while we develop cost-effective alternatives, such as wind, solar (with storage) and electric cars running off solar electricity. All these are likely to provide cheaper, cleaner alternatives within 20 years to digging fossil fuels out of the ground.
Warming over the next 20 years (called short or near-term warming) is critical.  The UNEP report explains “Near-term warming is pushing natural systems closer to thresholds that may lead to a further acceleration of climate change. For example, the melting of permafrost in the Arctic is releasing additional quantities of methane into the atmosphere, which in turn contribute to additional global warming“.
The Copenhagen target of limiting warming to 2°C will not be met without tackling near-term warming. In the first 20 years after emission, every kg of methane emitted from a domestic log-burning heater causes 88 times as much global warming as 1 kg of CO2, so because of the substantialquantities of methane they emit, log-burning heaters bring us nearer to exceeding the Copenhagen target than electric or gas heating for up to 12 similar houses.
Earlier assessments (when the prospect of exceeding the 2°C target seemed a long way off), concentrated on warming over 100 years. This is no longer a sensible strategy. Even biomass power plants (that produce no methane) are now considered likely to increase short-term global warming[27].  Domestic log-burning heaters are a much greater threat to the climate because of their methane emissions than biomass power plants. Unfortunately, the peak wood heating industry body, who lied to the Senate Inquiry about their key role opposing new wood-heater standards, also lies to consumers by quoting inappropriate, out-of-date studies that ignore near-term warming, and glosses over the fact that much of Australian firewood production is from unsustainable sources.

New standard must be based on real-life operation

Although Armidale (and some other councils) tried to tighten wood-heater emission limits, this had the paradoxical effect of increasing pollution, because real-life emissions from new wood-heaters bear little relationship to measurements from a perfectly-operated test model under laboratory conditions.  The photo shows real-life emissions from a brand-new heater that meets Armidale’s stricter limit of 2.5 g/kg (laboratory rating under perfect operation).

The NSWEPA’s consultancy report[1] estimates that a heater rated 2.5 g/kg has real-life emissions of 8.2 g/kg so, as reducing 0.4 kg of PM2.5 is worth $980, not installing a new wood heater rated 2.5 g/kg that burns 3.43 tonnes per year is worth $70,315!!!

Armidale’s “standard” for new wood heaters is like encouraging “light” cigarettes instead of giving up smoking.  It lulls residents into a false sense of security, encouraging them to spend good money on a totally unsatisfactory product with similar real-life emissions to the heaters that Council is paying a subsidy to remove.

With no safe level of PM2.5 pollution, and the availability of cost-effective alternative such as reverse cycle airconditioners that (even when outside temperatures are as low as 7°C) can deliver 5.9 times as much heat to the living areas as they use in power, the best option is not to install any new wood-heaters until clean ones have been developed that meet a satisfactory health-based standard.

The Australian Lung Foundation recommends using alternative methods (to wood-heaters) for climate control[7]  The American Lung Association notes some of the dangerous chemicals in woodsmoke (dioxin, arsenic and formaldehyde”) and “strongly recommends using cleaner, less toxic sources of heat (than wood heating)”[8].

Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment wrote: ‘If you are not a smoker, burning wood is probably the greatest threat to your health as anything that you do. But it is also a threat to your neighbors’ health, as inappropriate as blowing cigarette smoke in the face of the passenger in the seat next to you. More than likely your neighbors are less than enthusiastic about sacrificing their health for your freedom to burn wood. A civilized society would suggest they shouldn’t have to”[9].


1) Australian Governments should recognise wood-heaters as a major source of urban air pollution and not allow the health benefits of reducing vehicle pollution to be counteracted by increased wood-heater pollution.

2) A National system should be implemented to measure PM2.5 in all locations that exceed the NEPM advisory PM2.5 standard, making the data publicly available on the web.

3) A new wood-heater standard (e.g. real-life emissions of 0.1 grams PM2.5 per kg firewood) should be developed immediately to ensure that health costs do not exceed the benefits of using wood heaters.

4) No new wood-heaters should be installed unless they meet the new standard.

5) Existing heaters that do not meet the standard to be gradually phased out, with all polluting heaters to be removed before houses are sold.

6) Funds needed for the transition to cleaner heating to be raised by a ‘polluter-pays’ levy on wood heaters equal to a proportion of their estimated health costs (e.g. 10% of the estimated health costs in year 1, increasing to 100% over 10 years).  Similar policies are being considered elsewhere, e.g. a “polluter-pays” annual tax of 1500 DKK in Denmark.

7) Funding should also be provided to replace heaters that detrimentally impact the health or lifestyle of neighbours, in conjunction with stricter legal standards requiring polluters (and anyone who misleads consumers about the amount of pollution from wood heaters) to pay compensation for health damage from woodsmoke pollution.

References and Further Information

PM2.5 the worst air pollutant causing many more premature deaths as the next worst pollutant (O3)

There is no safe level of PM2.5 pollution. In Europe, PM2.5 pollution is associated with more than 492,000 premature deaths, equivalent to a loss of almost 4.9 million years of life (YOLL).”[10] In contrast, ozone (O3) pollution in Europe is estimated to cause 21,000 premature deaths[11].

Emissions reduction from London’s Low Emission Zone (0.17 ug/m3) much less than exposure from wood burning (1.1 ug/m3)[28] Although the reduction of 0.17 ug/m3 PM2.5 is welcome, tackling the annual average of 1.1 ug/m3 PM2.5 from woodsmoke pollution could achieve 6.5 times the benefits most likely for a fraction of the cost.

Not meeting PM2.5 standard as damaging to health as current active smoking
Currently, about 17% of Australians aged 16 or over (13.6% of all Australians) smoke daily. Exposing everyone to a daily average of 25 ug/m3 was noted to be as bad as the entire population (including babies and elderly folk at risk of strokes or heart disease) smoking 3 cigarettes a day. If everyone is forced to smoke 3 cigarettes, as many PM2.5 are inhaled as when a sixth of the population (16.7%) chooses to smoke 18 cigarettes per day. This is substantially worse than the actual smoking rate (13.6% of the population). The table below of PM2.5 measurements in Armidale shows that a third of households using wood heating creates a major health problem for the entire community.

PM2.5 Air pollution Measurements, Armidale, NSW, reproduced from the Armidale Dumaresq Council submission to the Senate Inquiry‘Impacts on health of air quality in Australia’.  Council’s submission reports that about a third of households use wood heating.

CBD measurements in winter months (June, July, August) averaged 15 to 16 ug/m3.  Corresponding measurements in 1999 were 13.9 at in the CBD and 31.8 in the East Armidale residential area.

Current PM2.5 pollution – more health damage than passive smoking
Research shows that current air pollution levels have a large and significant impact on health, even when air quality standards are met.  For example, a Canadian study with median pollution levels of 7.3 ug/m3 found that an increase of just 3 ug/m3 in PM2.5 was associated with a 9% increase in deaths from ischemic heart disease and 3-4.5% increases in all deaths.[12]  The Quebec Lung Association reports that wood heating is responsible for 61% of Quebec’s fine particle emissions[13]

Passive smoking (e.g. living with a smoker) produces similar increases in lung cancer (21-22%) and cardiovascular disease (CVD, 16-26%) to the increases (14-21%) in lung cancer and CVD (12-28%) from a 10 mg/m3 increase in PM2.5 pollution[14].  Consequently, with only 15.9% of Australian adults smoking daily and a further 1.6% smoking weekly[15], but the entire population exposed to PM2.5 pollution from 5 to more than 8 mg/m3, the impact of air pollution on health is substantially greater than the effect of passive smoking.

WHO: New additional health concerns
The World Health Organisation (WHO) review of air pollution and health[16] notes some new concerns in addition the well-known increases in heart and lung disease:

“5. Additional studies linking long-term exposure to PM2.5 to several new health outcomes including atherosclerosis, adverse birth outcomes and childhood respiratory disease;”

Cognitive impairment, autism & genetic damage in babies
The WHO’s review[16] also notes: “6. Emerging evidence also suggests possible links between long-term PM2.5 exposure and neurodevelopment and cognitive function as well as other chronic disease.”
…and expresses concern about polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure: “As PAHs are carcinogenic by a genotoxic mode of action, their levels in air should be kept as low as possible.”

The evidence for cognitive impairment and genetic damage is quite strong. Several studies have linked PM2.5, PAH, or woodsmoke exposure to hastened cognitive decline in adults – increased exposure of 10 mg/m3 PM2.5 being equivalent to 2 additional years[17] or 3 additional years[18] of ageing.  The Harvard University Nurses Health Study found a 39% increase in autism spectrum disorder of babies born to US mothers for an increase of 4.1 ug/m3 of PM2.5 exposure during pregnancy.  The increased risk for exposure during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy was 60%.  With wintertime (June, July, August) PM2.5 measurements averaging 31.8 ug/m3 in one Armidale residential area, a 60% increase in risk per 4.13 ug/m3 of exposure during the 3rd trimester would imply a 4.6-fold increase in risk for babies born at the end of winter.

In developing countries, children whose mothers cook with wood (as opposed to kerosene) stoves have reduced IQ, poorer memory and worse social skills, e.g. in Belize, Kenya, Nepal and American Samoa[19], and also in Guatemala[20].

In developed countries, genetic damage in babies, behavioural problems, childhood asthma and a 5 point reduction in IQ on starting school have all been linked to exposure of pregnant women to airborne PAH[21-23].  Of particular interest is the relatively low exposures required to cause the significant problems noted above – ambient benzo[a]pyrene was less than 0.5 ng/m3 and high exposure was defined as exposure greater than the median of 2.27 ng/m3 (sum of 8 PAH concentrations).  These concentrations seem extremely low compared to average wintertime BaP concentrations of 1.30 ng/m3 and PAH concentrations of 8.62 (max 24.0 ng/m3 for a slightly wider set of PAH), in the small country town of Armidale, NSW.

Other estimates of the health costs of wood-heaters
The NSW-EPA’s Woodsmoke Control Options Report estimated that, over a 20-year period, the health costs of woodsmoke amount to more than $8 billion in NSW – an almost unbelievable $22,000 for every wood-heater. Three simple measures (not allowing new wood-heaters to be installed, removing existing wood-heaters when houses are sold and licensing fees) were estimated to reduce this by about 75%.  Estimated costs and health benefits of other woodsmoke control options are shown in the table below.

Table. Estimated health benefits and costs of woodsmoke control options in NSW

Health Benefit

Cost $million

Net Benefit $million

4) Phase out at sale of house




2) Ban on heater sales




7) Licensing fees




6) Sales tax on new wood heaters




9) Cash incentive phase out




8) Levying an excise/tax on biomass fuels




5) Fuel moisture content regulations




3) Emission standards (3g/kg, 60% efficiency)




Source:  Tables 26 and 28, AECOM Office of Environment & Heritage: Economic Appraisal of Wood Smoke Control Measures – Final Report, 29 June 2011

Peer-reviewed journal paper: Australian wood heaters currently increase global warming and health costs

Comparison of measured PM2.5 in Armidale (a rural town with above-average wood-heater use) and Muswellbrook (a mining town where woodsmoke represents 62% of measured wintertime PM2.5 pollution)

Improving wood-heater standards would represent 1% of the cost of meeting National air quality targets in Sydney, while achieving representing 66% of the benefits.   Senate Inquiry reporthttp://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/Completed_inquiries/2010-13/airquality/report/output/index). Para 6.13 notes that improving wood-heater standards would represent 1% of the cost of meeting National air quality targets in Sydney, while achieving representing 66% of the benefits.  Para 6.35 blames wood heating industry reps for the failure of attempts to strengthen national wood-heater standards.

Aggressive marketing by the wood heating industry fools people into thinking that new wood heaters are clean and environmentally friendly – http://woodsmoke.3sc.net/ahha-tactics   The number of households using wood as the main form of heating in Sydney increased from 70,700 in 2008 to 83,300 in 2011.


Petrol cars are even cleaner than diesels

The graph below (from the second national in-service emissions study (NISE2)[24]) shows in-service PM2.5 emissions for petrol vehicles The 2006-07 average PM2.5 emissions of 1 mg/km implies that a vehicle travelling 20,000 km will emit just 20 grams of PM2.5, less than the average domestic wood heater in the first hour after lighting.

The abbreviations in the key: PV-S, PV-M and PV-L denote small, medium, large passenger vehicles; SUV-C and SUV-L denote compact and large SUV; LVC denotes light commercial vehicles.

Additional information on real-life emissions for new wood-heaters

Governments currently spend considerable time and money trying to educate residents how to operate wood heaters correctly, and dealing with complaints from neighbours, because the current wood heater test does not reflect real-life emissions, and does not include the generally high level of emissions when lighting the heater.

Launceston used part of its $2 million woodsmoke funding to teach people how to operate their heaters.  CSIRO measured emissions from volunteers who knew their emissions were being measured and were so keen to operate their heaters correctly that many were re-fuelled in the middle of the night, instead of being left to smoulder.  Despite this, emissions of Australian standard compliant heaters averaged 9.4 g/kg[25], so a heater burning Launceston’s average of 4 to 6 tonnes would emit 38 to 56 kg of PM2.5 per year, as much as 1900 to 2,800 new petrol-fuelled passenger cars.

Refusing to buy existing excessively polluting wood-heaters would force industry to clean up their act. New efficient air-conditioners and heat pumps deliver up to 10 times as much heat as they use in electricity; cleaner heating is healthier and more affordable than buying firewood, and causes less global warming.


1.             NSW OEH, Economic Appraisal of Wood Smoke Control Measures, 2011, AECOM Australia Pty Ltd. Prepared for the Office of Environment and Heritage.  Available at:http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/woodsmoke/smokecontrolopts.htm.

2.             NEPCSC, National Environment Protection Council Service Corporation, Consultation regulation impact statement (CRIS) for reducing emissions from wood heaters.  , in Available at http://www.scew.gov.au/strategic-priorities/clean-air-plan/woodheaters/index.html2013.

3.             Hibberd, M., et al., Upper Hunter Valley Particle Characterization Study., 2013, CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research.  Final report available at: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/uhaqmnfpcs.htm.

4.             Lewtas, J., R.B. Zweidinger, and L. Cupitt. Mutagenicity, Tumorigenicity and Estimation of cancer risk from ambient aerosol and source emissions from woodsmoke and motor vehicles. in Air and Waste Management Association 84th Annual Meeting & Exhibition. 1991. Vancouver, BC, 1991.

5.             Naeher, L., et al., Woodsmoke Health Effects: A Review. Inhalation Toxicology, 2007. 19(1): p. 67-106.

6.             New Menzies Research Institute Tasmania research. Reduction in air pollution from wood heaters associated with reduced risk of death. http://www.media.utas.edu.au/general-news/all-news/reduction-in-air-pollution-from-wood-heaters-associated-with-reduced-risk-of-death 2013.

7.             ALF. Woodsmoke and your Health: The Burning Issues. 2012.

8.             ALA. American Lung Association Cautions Against Wood-burning and Urges Cleaner Alternatives for Winter Heat. 2008.

9.             Brian Moench, Small minority who burn wood are responsible for much of our pollution, in Standard-Examiner2013,http://www.standard.net/stories/2013/10/15/small-minority-who-burn-wood-are-responsible-much-our-pollution  (accessed March 2014).

10.          Leeuw, F.d. and J. Horálek, eds. Assessment of the health impacts of exposure to PM2.5 at a European level. 2009, European Topic Centre on Air and Climate Change.  Available at http://acm.eionet.europa.eu/reports/ETCACC_TP_2009_1_European_PM2.5_HIA:Bilthoven.

11.          NSW EPA, Action for air – 2009 update. Available at: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/air/actionforair/ActionforAir2009.htm, 2009.

12.          Crouse, D.L., et al., Risk of Non-accidental and Cardiovascular Mortality in Relation to Long-term Exposure to Low Concentrations of Fine Particulate Matter: A Canadian National-level Cohort Study. Environ Health Perspect, 2012.

13.          Lung Association of Quebec, Wood heating: a public health issue for the Montréal region. http://www.pq.lung.ca/environment-environnement/wood_smoke-fumee_bois/enjeu-montreal/, 2009.

14.          Pope Iii, C.A., et al., Lung cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality associated with ambient air pollution and cigarette smoke: shape of the exposure-response relationships. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2011. 119(11): p. 1616.

15.          Scollo, M. and M. Winstanley, Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. 4th edn. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria. Available from www.TobaccoInAustralia.org.au. 2012.

16.          HEPA filtres improve health.  http://www.scientistlive.com/European-Science-News/Medical/HEPA_filtres_improve_health/19772/.

17.         Weuve, J., et al., Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution and Cognitive Decline in Older Women. Arch Intern Med, 2012. 172(3): p. 219-227.

18.          Kluss, T. Bad Air Means Bad News for Seniors’ Brainpower.  http://www.geron.org/About%20Us/press-room/Archived%20Press%20Releases/80-2012-press-releases/1460-bad-air-means-bad-news-for-seniors-brainpower. 2012.

19.          Munroe, R.L. and M. Gauvain, Exposure to open-fire cooking and cognitive performance in children. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 2012. 22(2): p. 156-164.

20.          Dix-Cooper, L., et al., Neurodevelopmental performance among school age children in rural Guatemala is associated with prenatal and postnatal exposure to carbon monoxide, a marker for exposure to woodsmoke. NeuroToxicology, 2011. 33(2): p. 246–254.

21.          Perera, F.P., et al., Prenatal Airborne Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Exposure and Child IQ at Age 5 Years. Pediatrics, 2009. 124(2): p. e195-202.

22.          Perera, F.P., et al., Prenatal Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Exposure and Child Behavior at age 6-7. Environ Health Perspect, 2012.

23.          Perera, F.P., et al., PAH/Aromatic DNA Adducts in Cord Blood and Behavior Scores in New York City Children. Environ Health Perspect, 2011.

24.          NISE2, Second National In-Service Emissions Study: Technical Summary, 2009, Australian Government Department of the Environment.  Available at:  http://www.environment.gov.au/archive/transport/publications/nise2.html.

25.          Meyer, C.P., et al., Measurement of real-world PM10 emission factors and emission profiles from woodheaters by in situ source monitoring and atmospheric verification methods, 2008, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (CMAR), (available at:http://www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/publications/emission-factor.html ).

26 ABC News. Wood smoke worse than car exhausts.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/24/2226672.htm. 2008; Available from:http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/24/2226672.htm

27.  Mainville, N., Fuelling a Biomess: Why Burning Trees for Energy Will Harm People, the Climate and Forests, in Available at:http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/recent/Burning-trees-for-energy-puts-Canadian-forests-and-climate-at-risk-Greenpeace/2011, Greenpeace Canada.

28.          Fuller, G.W., et al., Contribution Of Wood Burning To PM10 In London. Atmospheric Environment, 2014.

Afschrikwekkend beeld van de gezondheidsrisico’s door FIJNSTOF.

Visiting Doctor Warns of Smoke Dangers

Utah basis arts waarschuwt Fairbanks inwoners over de gevaren van rook.
Als KUAC’s Dan Bross verslagen, Dokter Brian Moench (MENCH), die op de sprekerslijst in Fairbanks morgen (Zat ), cites medisch onderzoek en zijn eigen ervaringen in een Salt Lake City hospital, tonen een afschrikwekkend beeld  van  de gezondheidsrisico’s van fijne deeltjes (FIJNSTOF) verontreiniging.

stove_pipe_0A Utah based doctor is warning Fairbanks residents about the dangers of smoky air.  As KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, Doctor Brian Moench (MENCH), who scheduled to speak in Fairbanks tomorrow (Sat.), cites medical research and his own experience in a Salt Lake City hospital, to paint a dire picture of the health impacts of fine particulate pollution.

The Truth About Wood Smoke Pollution


FCA_slide1 FCA_slide2 FCA_slide3 FCA_slide4 FCA_slide5 FCA_slide6 FCA_slide7

Even though humans have burned wood for thousands of years, scientists have only recently discovered just how hazardous wood smoke pollution is to our health.

Hundreds of studies have now documented the harmful health effects of wood smoke pollution. Yet many people remain unaware of the facts—or refuse to accept them.

The current situation is similar to the way we used to treat second-hand tobacco smoke—by the time the public finally accepted just how hazardous second-hand smoke was, there had already been incalculable damage to human life.

There’s good reason to be even more concerned about wood smoke pollution than about second-hand tobacco smoke, since it’s more hazardous: according to the US EPA, the lifetime cancer risk from wood smoke is estimated to be 12 times greater than from a similar amount of cigarette smoke.

The time has come for all of us to acknowledge the real dangers of burning wood.


Houtrook in huis… PM & Astma (ARTIS)



The recruitment status of this study is unknown because the information has not been verified recently.

Verified December 2008 by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
Recruitment status was  Recruiting
Information provided by:
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier:
First received: December 10, 2008
Last updated: NA
Last verified: December 2008
History: No changes posted

Although particulate matter (PM) exposures have been linked with poor respiratory health outcomes, most of these studies have focused on airsheds with urban and industrial sources of PM2.5. Woodsmoke-derived PM also contributes to ambient PM in these urban areas, and is the major source of PM in many US rural or peri-urban areas, as well as in many communities within developing countries. This study will focus on indoor air quality and clinically relevant changes in health effects among asthmatics living in homes whose primary heating sources are non EPA-certified woodstoves. The Primary Aim of this study is to assess the efficacy of residential interventions to reduce indoor PM exposure from woodstoves and the corresponding improvements in quality of life and health outcomes for asthmatic children. The study area for this project will be three rural communities in western Montana and Idaho, including one Indian Reservation. This study will use a three arm (Tx1, Tx2, and Tx3) randomized placebo-controlled intervention trial. The interventions will be at the household level, and exposure and outcomes will be assessed for one asthmatic child in each household. Households in Tx1 will receive inactive high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) devices and will serve as the placebo group. Households in Tx2 will receive a new EPA-certified woodstove, while households in Tx3 will receive active HEPA devices. The Secondary Aims of this study are to assess the impact of these interventions on residential PM2.5 exposures and other health outcomes. Secondary exposure outcomes measured prior to and following the intervention will include PM2.5 mass, chemical woodsmoke markers on PM2.5 filters (including levoglucosan and abietic acids), and biomarkers of woodsmoke exposure. Secondary asthma-related health outcomes measured prior to and following the intervention will include peak expiratory flow (PEF) and forced expiratory volume in first second (FEV1), biomarkers in exhaled breath condensate, and frequency of asthma symptoms, medication usage, and healthcare utilization. To our knowledge, this will be the first randomized trial in the US to utilize a woodsmoke intervention to assess the impact of the consequent reductions in indoor PM on health outcomes in a susceptible population. The results from this project will be translatable to other regions in the US and the world where biomass burning is commonly used for heating and cooking.

Condition Intervention Phase
Asthma Other: woodstove
Other: inactive air filter
Other: Active air filter
Phase 3
Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Open Label
Primary Purpose: Basic Science
Official Title: Indoor Woodsmoke PM and Asthma: a Randomized Trial
Resource links provided by NLM:
Further study details as provided by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS):
Primary Outcome Measures:

  • Quality of Life [ Time Frame: 1 month ] [ Designated as safety issue: No ]
Estimated Enrollment: 108
Study Start Date: December 2008
Estimated Study Completion Date: January 2013
Estimated Primary Completion Date: January 2013 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Placebo Comparator: Tx1

Inactive air filter
Other: inactive air filter

air filter units without filter in place
Experimental: Tx2

New EPA-certified woodstove
Other: woodstove

installation of new EPA-certified woodstove
Experimental: Tx3

Active air filter
Other: Active air filter

air filter units correctly operating


Ages Eligible for Study: 10 Years to 17 Years
Genders Eligible for Study: Both
Accepts Healthy Volunteers: No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • children with moderate to severe asthma living in homes with non EPA-certified woodstove used for heating.

Exclusion Criteria:

  Contacts and Locations

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.Please refer to this study by its ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00807183

Contact: Curtis W Noonan, Ph.D. 406-243-4957 curtis.noonan@umontana.edu
Contact: Tony J Noonan, Ph.D. 406-243-4092 tony.ward@umontana.edu

United States, Montana
University of Montana Recruiting
Missoula, Montana, United States, 59812
Contact: Curtis W Noonan, Ph.D.    406-243-4957    curtis.noonan@umontana.edu
Contact: Tony J Ward, Ph.D.    406-243-4092    tony.ward@umontana.edu
Sponsors and Collaborators
Principal Investigator: Curtis W Noonan, Ph.D. University of Montana
Principal Investigator: Tony Ward, Ph.D. University of Montana
  More Information

No publications provided by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)Additional publications automatically indexed to this study by ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier (NCT Number):

Responsible Party: Curtis Noonan, University of Montana
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00807183     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 16336-CP-001
Study First Received: December 10, 2008
Last Updated: December 10, 2008
Health Authority: United States: Federal Government

Additional relevant MeSH terms:

Bronchial Diseases
Respiratory Tract Diseases
Lung Diseases, Obstructive
Lung Diseases
Respiratory Hypersensitivity
Hypersensitivity, Immediate
Immune System Diseases

ClinicalTrials.gov processed this record on June 05, 2014

Afrikaanse savannes zien houtvoorraad snel slinken

ipsAfrikaanse savannes zien houtvoorraad snel slinken

Afrika ten zuiden van de Sahara ziet zijn houtvoorraad snel slinken. Voor de meesten daar is hout de belangrijkste energiebron.


Als de huidige houtconsumptie niet verandert, dan is de voorraad over dertien jaar op, zeggen Zuid-Afrikaanse onderzoekers. De houtconsumptie zou acht jaar lang met 15 procent per jaar moeten dalen om weer een duurzaam peil te bereiken, berekenden ze.

Ze vlogen boven 30.000 hectare savannegebied in eigen land, onder meer boven het bekende nationaal park Kruger.

Belangrijkste energiebron

Voor twee derde van de gezinnen in Afrika ten zuiden van de Sahara zijn hout en houtskool de belangrijkste energiebron (koken, verwarming). In Zuid-Afrika alleen al gaat om het 2,4 miljoen gezinnen, die samen 4 tot 7 miljoen ton per jaar hout verbranden. In de rest van de regio, die minder ontwikkeld is dan Zuid-Afrika, ligt het verbruik nog hoger.

“De achteruitgang van de brandhoutreserves in de Afrikaanse savannes is ernstig”, zeggen de wetenschappers. “Het onderstreept het belang van betaalbare energie voor economische ontwikkeling op het platteland.”

Momenteel is een elektrische kachel het enige alternatief, zeggen ze. Maar de omschakeling verloopt traag, wellicht door de hoge kostprijs van kachel en elektriciteit. Waar veel werkloosheid is, hebben mensen ook meer tijd om hout te sprokkelen.

Gemeten met licht

Het onderzoek gebeurde vanuit een vliegtuig met lidar-technologie (afkorting van light detection and ranging) aan boord. Daarbij wordt de afstand tot een object of oppervlak gemeten met laserpulsen. Zoals radar zo’n afstand met radiogolven meet, zo doet lidar dat met licht.

De lidar-metingen maakten het mogelijk de boomhoogte en dus het houtvolume te bepalen. Nadien werden ze gekoppeld aan bekende gegevens, zoals sociaaleconomische data en houtconsumptie.

De studie is gepubliceerd in Environmental Research Letters.

Onze buitenlandse collega’s

Recent onderzoek… nieuwe zorgen over giftige stoffen in hout rook

Courtesy of ci.independence.mo.us 

NORDEN, Calif.—On a frosty evening in the Sierra Nevada, smoke curling from the chimney of the Clair Tappaan Lodge is a welcome sight to chilly snowshoers and cross-country skiers. Gathering by the massive stone hearth at this landmark Sierra Club mountain hostel, guests relax in the warmth and aroma of the crackling log fire.Those same woodsy scents waft across the wintry north, as millions of fireplaces and wood stoves are lit by people seeking an environmentally friendly source of heat and ambience. But recent research raises new concerns over the toxic substances borne aloft in wood smoke.(Maar recent onderzoek werpt nieuwe zorgen over giftige stoffen in hout rook.)The tiny airborne specks of pollution known as particulate matter, or PM, produced by wood-burning stoves appear to be especially harmful to human health. Small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs, they carry high levels of chemicals linked to cardiopulmonary diseases and cancer, and they can damage DNA and activate genes in hazardous ways comparable to cigarette smoke and car exhaust.

“We found that wood smoke PM has similar toxicity and effects on DNA as that of vehicle exhaust particles,” said University of Copenhagen researcher Steffen Loft, who led a new study of air pollution from wood stoves.

Another new study, conducted in Canada, found that infants and toddlers living in areas with a lot of wood stoves and fireplaces were significantly more likely to get ear infections, one of the leading causes of childhood trips to the doctor.

Early humans began building wood fires hundreds of thousands of years ago, providing protection from predators, expanding sources of food and allowing migration to colder climates. Because wood is a “natural” material and has been an integral part of human existence for so long, many view it as a benign, cheap and renewable energy alternative.

“It’s the cave man’s television,” said John Walsh, an engineer who heats his 3,000-square-foot home with a wood stove during the brisk winters in Bozeman, Mont., describing how the graceful gyre of flames has enthralled people through the ages.

Walsh, who burns mostly lodgepole pines killed by pine beetles, enjoys the exercise of cutting and splitting the logs, as well as saving about $2,000 in energy bills a year. In addition, “wood heat is carbon neutral,” he said, because “burning it releases the same amount of carbon as having it decay.”

Wood-burning fits in with a rustic ethic. In Northern California’s nine-county Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the most frequent violations of the region’s fireplace and wood-stove restrictions tend to come from bucolic Sonoma County, home to vineyards, ranches and farms.

“These are places that are somewhat rural,” said Bay Area AQMD spokesperson Aaron Richardson, “and there does tend to be a kind of a culture of relying on wood for additional heating needs.”

However, that woodsy “link to the land” is also linked to potentially serious health risks. Vented outdoors, the smoke can pose a bigger threat to people in the community than to those sitting fireside.

Exposure to the particulates in smoke irritates the lungs and air passages, causing swelling that obstructs breathing. Wood smoke can worsen asthma, and is especially harmful to children and older people. It also has been linked to respiratory infections, adverse changes to the immune system, and early deaths among people with cardiovascular or lung problems.

“We know there’s a lot of bad stuff released when wood is burned,” said Dr. John Balmes, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and professor of environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. “It’s actually not that far away from tobacco smoke and smoke from fossil fuel combustion engines. They’re in the same ball park.”

Environmental Health News commissioned this story by InvestigateWest, a non-profit journalism studio focused on the environment, public health and social justice in western North America.