Although some people claim that the wood-burning season doesn’t exist anymore because people never stop burning stuff (and this is true in some regions), the vast majority of the population can’t wait for cold weather to arrive in order to light the “cozy” wood stoves and unconsciously chock the village with toxic smoke.
Yes, wood-stoves even the ECO friendly or low-emissions or EPA certified or you name it, are huge polluters! They emit lots of particulate matter (commonly known as PM2.5) and a huge array of toxic chemicals that sometimes linger in the air for many days. Air pollution kills 13 people every minute worldwide and scientists at Harvard University found that dwellers who live in polluted areas are 15% more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who do not!
The atmospheric conditions and the geographical location of a village or city work in a complex way sometimes in favor of the dwellers but most of the time against the dwellers. When a city is surrounded by hills and mountains air pollution tends to stay there for a long time, like in Murcia, Spain. In that case, people’s lungs work as purifiers and trap all the pollutants, as a result, we have more hospital admissions and more chances to suffer severe health effects due to the air pollution which is deposed inside our bodies. The cost to maintain public health also increases.
By comparison, wood smoke from stoves and boilers carries the highest concentration across all pollutants. One eco-certified wood stove is rated at 3.1grams/h of particulate matter which is equal to six heavy-duty lorries which are rated at 0.5grams/h of particulate matter each.
Wood stoves are also climate disaster heaters as they emit lots of black carbon and greenhouse gases. Black carbon (BC) is a component of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and it consists of pure carbon. It is commonly formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass (aka wood logs, wood pellets, etc). BC contributes to global warming as it warms the Earth by absorbing sunlight and heating the atmosphere and by reducing albedo (reflection of solar radiation) when deposited on snow and ice.
Wood burning should have been regulated or even banned a long time ago, however, when the population is trying to heat their homes “economically” wood is their number one choice. When Greece was hit by the economical crisis back in 2008, there was a huge shift in the way people chose to keep their households warm in winter. They picked out wood burning as the price of petrol rose exponentially. I am afraid that the same thing will happen in the EU in 2021 as the price of electricity is rising every day. Unfortunately, the environment isn’t the number one priority for low-income houses, but keeping bills down is.
The EU has to regulate the price of electricity by investing more in the renewable energy sector because we all depend on it for many everyday tasks like cooking, heating, working, etc. Electricity is as important as the supply of clean water for homes and businesses and clean energy is the only way to reduce toxic emissions but also creating decent jobs for people. Spain, for example, has a huge potentiality when it comes to producing energy from solar panels or wind turbines and it could easily export the energy to other neighboring European countries. (Unfortunately, there is no political vision here, so we are not going to see that happening anytime soon.)
The sooner we decide to stop burning wood or any other material that the industry will choose as a climate “friendly” fuel like biomass the better for us and the environment. Our health (physical and mental) is at stake and our planet as well. We have to see the bigger picture as our actions create multiple domino effects. Floods, extreme droughts, extreme heatwaves, and wildfires are some of the consequences of the way we currently heat our houses.