UK sees increased wood burning offset cuts in car pollution data

Official figures in the UK from the Environment Department (Defra) show that the increase in wood burners in homes and the use of biomass in industry has offset cuts in pollution from cars.

Statistics reveal that polluting particulate matter (PM), a variety of small and toxic substances that can enter the bloodstream and severely impact health has fallen significantly since the 1970s. Still, other emissions have remained relatively steady in recent years.

‘Bigger’ particles, called PM10, recently increased (by 1% between 2021 and 2022), though they decreased by 82% since 1970. ‘Smaller’ particles, known as PM2.5, fell by 2% between 2021 and 2022 but dropped significantly (88%) since 1970.

Wood burning in homes

However, statistics show that particulate matter emissions from wood burning in homes have increased by 56% in the decade to 2022. Wood burners and open fires contributed 29% of total PM2.5 emissions in 2022 and 15% of PM10 emissions. Road transport is also a significant source of particulate pollution, responsible for 18% of PM2.5 emissions and 16% of PM10 emissions in 2022.

Due to stricter vehicle standards, exhaust emissions have decreased by over 90% since 1996. However, particles from brakes, tires, and road wear have increased by 15% for PM2.5 and 14% for PM10. Emissions from industrial combustion and processes, such as producing steel, are also significant sources of particulate matter.

Harmful

The long-term decrease in particulate matter was primarily driven by the reduction in the burning of coal and improved emissions standards for transport and industrial processes. However, since the late 2000s, the rate of falls in the pollutants has reduced.

Considerable decreases in emissions from some sources, such as road transport and the energy sector, have been “largely offset” by an increase in wood burning in homes and using biomass fuels in industry.

Chronic diseases

According to cleanairhub.org.uk, wood burning harms your wallet, health, and the planet. It is almost always the most expensive way of heating, it is the largest source of harmful particulate matter (in the UK), and we can never reproduce trees fast enough to offset the CO2 emitted by burning wood.

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), air pollution has decreased but remains Europe’s largest environmental health risk, causing chronic diseases and premature deaths. It also harms biodiversity, land and water ecosystems and damages agricultural crops and forests, causing major economic losses.

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