Did you know that wood burning hurts your health, wallet, and the planet? Uttlesford District Council and environmental charity Global Action Plan are working together to share the facts about wood burning with residents of Saffron Walden and the surrounding areas.

Read on to find out why wood burning is an issue in your local area and what you can do to help protect your family and community.

Why is wood burning harmful?

Lighting fires in our homes is the largest source of harmful small particle air pollution – known as PM2.5 - in the UK. These particles are so small that they can enter your bloodstream and travel around your body, harming your organs.

The more small particle air pollution you are exposed to, the more likely you are to die from heart or lung disease or lung cancer. It can also cause diabetes, damage your brain health, and lead to dementia, and affect unborn children.  

‘Wood burning poses a significant risk to everyone’s health – making it a luxury we cannot afford in residential areas like Saffron Walden,’ explains Tessa Bartholomew-Good, Head of Campaigns – Clean Air at Global Action Plan.

Wood burning not only hurts your health, but also the environment. It releases more harmful carbon emissions than oil or gas for the same amount of heat or energy – contributing to climate change.

Saffron Walden Reporter:  (Image: morrison/Shutterstock.com)

Why don’t more people know about these harms?

Most people are unaware of the harms of wood burning, despite clear evidence that it poses a risk to our health and the environment. 63% of Saffron Walden residents surveyed stated they were quite or very concerned about the impact of air pollution on their health, but wood burner usage in the town is nine times higher than the national average. This suggests that residents have not been given all the facts about wood burning.

‘There are three key myths that research shows are standing in the way of the public understanding this important issue: that wood burning is cheaper, more environmentally friendly or not a major source of air pollution,’ explains Tessa Bartholomew-Good.

‘But these myths are just that. The truth is that wood burning hurts your health, wallet, and the planet. That’s why it’s so important that we talk about this burning issue, and by giving you the facts, we hope you feel more confident in making informed decisions for your household.’

Why is this a problem in Saffron Walden?

Many people in Saffron Walden use wood burners to heat their homes, making it one of the most pressing air quality issues in the local area. ‘Residents should be aware that the use of wood burners is polluting, harmful to health and can cause pollution levels to increase in the home as well as outside,’ says Marcus Watts, Environmental Health Manager (Protection) at Uttlesford District Council.

The specific geography of Saffron Walden also contributes to the scale of the issue. 'The topography of Saffron Walden is such that the town centre is low-lying in relation to the outer areas, which reduces the amount of dispersion of emissions by air flow,' explains Marcus Watts. ‘In addition, the historic narrow streets of the town can lead to recirculation of air flow causing pollution levels to increase.’

In 2021, the council received funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to deliver a number of initiatives and schemes to improve air quality in Saffron Walden. This included a public health campaign to raise awareness of the effects of wood burning.   

The council is aiming to expand this campaign in the future and is committed to putting residents needs and welfare first. Whilst this project is initially focused on air quality in Saffron Walden, it will expand the wood burning public health awareness campaign across the district in time. The council is committed to making our towns and villages healthy places to live, work and play. The council has an obligation to ensure a clean, healthy, and safe future for all residents and the wood burning public health awareness campaign is one of many initiatives that will help deliver these promises to residents.

Saffron Walden Reporter:  (Image: Global Action Plan)

How can I find out more?

Wood burning is a growing problem across the country, affecting everyone’s health and the planet. That’s why Global Action Plan are organising the first national Clean Air Night on 24 January, to shine a light on the uncomfortable truth about wood burning.

You can get involved by learning the facts about wood burning and sharing what you’ve learned with your local community so that everyone has the information they need to protect their families.

Find out the facts by visiting the website now or check out #CleanAirNight.