Council asks people not to light woodburning stoves or bonfires during outbreak

Posted On 01 Apr 2020 at 2:31 pm

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay


The council has asked people not to light woodburning stoves or bonfires during the coronavirus outbreak because poor air quality could worsen breathing difficulties.

The sharp decrease in cars on the road has seen the amount of nitrogen dioxide being recorded at Brighton’s official air pollution monitor at Preston Park halve.

But nitrogen dioxide, which typically comes from cars, is not the only air pollutant and the type most associated with wood burning has gone up over the same period.

The Spearhead

The average amount of PM2.5 for the eight days from 17 March was 12.48 Pµg/m3 – which is an increase on the corresponding period in 2019, when it was 8.06 Pµg/m3.

Measuring air pollution is an inexact science, as levels are affected by other factors, most notably how much wind there is to disperse particles.

The Preston Park monitor, which measured these figures, has also now switched from recording hourly averages to daily averages, which could affect the figures.

But what is known is that when levels are high, people with respiratory conditions notice more difficulties with breathing.

One resident, who asked only to give his first name Adrian, has installed an air pollution monitor on his roof, and says he’s noticed air pollution readings peaking in the evenings recently.

He said: “At the moment there’s obviously an epidemic which is affecting people’s respiratory health and it’s been proven that the particles from things like chimneys and woodburning stoves impact directly on lung health and cardiac health – two of the most at-risk groups for Covid-19.

“Brighton is the largest city without a full smoke control area in place. The Brighton smoke control area covers just 5 per cent, and none of Hove.”

Last month, researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada warned that air pollution could be contributing to coronavirus deaths, which was seen during the SARS outbreak.

Dr. Christopher Carlsten, professor of medicine and Canada Research Chair in Occupational and Environmental Lung Disease at UBC, said: “The gases and particles in polluted air damage the natural defense systems that fight respiratory viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2.

“Such pollution weakens our first line of defense—our lungs, including the protective cells and fluid lining our airways and the specialized proteins that fight against invading organisms.

“While it is too early to know whether air pollution has had a similar impact during the current pandemic, both Wuhan and northern Italy are areas with relatively poor air quality.

“Other studies on other viruses show that air pollution can increase both the frequency of severity of infection. Therefore, poor air quality can impose an additional burden on the health care system during a time when it is already stretched very thin.”

In a statement, Brighton and Hove City Council said: “At the moment, while we’re staying at home more than usual, concerns have been raised about the health impacts of smoke from wood-burners and from bonfires.

“We’re asking people to please consider the health of local residents with respiratory problems and not light fires if this can be at all avoided.

“On a better note, we’re aware that the government’s restrictions on going out are being credited for better air quality in some areas of the city that are usually affected by high volumes of traffic on the roads.

“While this is great news, it is too early for monitoring to confirm the impact in scientific terms. This will need to be looked at again when we can compare quarterly results at some point in the future after the pressures on service from the pandemic are no longer an issue.”

  1. Peter Challis Reply

    Still pushing anti-motorist propaganda?

    NOx comes from all ICE transport and engines including buses, taxis, motorcycles, council vehicles, commercial vehicles, planes and some trains.

    How much NOx is being generated per passenger miles on buses when they are running with only 1 or 2 passengers? Would it be better to run taxis on demand (after all they are barely in use now)?

    • Mr Hill Reply

      Peter Challis: this report has very little to do with NOx and everything to do with PM2.5. The likely source of PM2.5 is residential heating (coal & wood burning), not transport.

      However yes, buses are inefficient with just 1 or 2 people on them and yup, Taxis would be more efficient but I guess the driver would need a screen of some kind from the passenger. Hopefully they use more of the lighter single decker buses (the small electric ones are brilliant)…but then maybe there is a risk of the bus becoming overcrowded (it happened a little bit in London with a couple of tubes getting very busy).

    • Ron smith Reply

      Why are you showing an advert for wood burning fuel in a story about health problems regarding wood burning stoves, double standards I think!

  2. Argusnot Reply

    Our neighbours love a bonfire; too lazy to go to the tip I guess.

    • Allotment L Reply

      The tips are closed

  3. Peter Reply

    Are the Europeans, notably Germany, Austria, Switzerland, most of Scandinavia etc….countries where their basic winter heating is based on wood burning, also telling their population to put their fires out. Many have government grants to cut amounts of wood and it has been part of their culture for thousands of years. They must be killing the rest of Europe as well as themselves!

    • John Reply

      Curious results? Recent reports around the world are lauding how much cleaner the air and water is since so many business have shut down, more people working from home, etc., yet you are seeing an increase?!

  4. Padraig Carey Reply

    Maybe everyone could stop smoking cigarettes for the foreseeable future as the medical professionals tell us that this behaviour can have seriously damaging effects upon the respirtory and pulmonary system.In fact my local council have been rumoured to be discussing closing down the local power station and all gas fired heating systems in the surrounding district due to dangerous levels of carbon emissions bilging straight out from all domestic,commercial and industrial buildings.I just wanted to ask people to stay safe and remember we are all in this together.After all our local farmer in an obvious display of social caring killed all his farm animals last night in an heroic attempt to rid the planet of unwanted methane gases escaping into the atmosphere.Speaking to the local press he said after having ended 5 generations of dairy farming he called on all outdated methods of farming to be stopped in favour of a new global nutrition programme based on consuming alfalfa seeds and mosquitoes.I saw an ambulance driving out of his farm yard this morning.Some people were saying that he was travelling down to London incognito to interview for Dominic Cummins recent civil service recruitment drive and he may not be back for some time.

    • Bernard Reply

      I have recently been poorly with C19 symptoms and still have a cough nearly 3 weeks since becoming sick, I have 1 neighbor that burns cheap coal, another that burns wet wood and to top that another neighbor had a massive bonfire, these fires contributed in worsening my illness to the point that in the evenings the smoke from these fires made me cough so much I was sick, if i smell smoke even now 3 weeks on i go into a fit of coughing, i am not asthmatic and no other breathing issues, i live in Cornwall in a village right next to the sea, so we have very little pollution, we have mechanical ventilation system and i regularly clean the air filters, you would not believe how black they become from my neighbors pollution causing fires, burning wet wood and cheap coal is bad for your health… Stop it

  5. Jeremy Reply

    bbc Radio 4 ‘More or Less’ reported that a large proportion of our air pollution comes over from Europe anyway and therefore the increase in PM2.5 may not be home-grown at all.

  6. Rob Reply

    Before reports like this are published,the facts need to be ascertained. What percentage of people with live fires are burning kiln dried or seasoned woods. Who knows what they are burning? For all we know they could be finding wood in the yard and burning it. Instead of trying to force more people out of employment,what you should be doing is trying to educate and advise the public to burn recommended products on recommended appliances.

    • Hywel Reply

      Whatever happened to DEFRA approved stoves? They are ok to use in ok to use in smokeless zones.

    • Frank Pogorzelec Reply

      This is a joke,log burners being heavy polluters are being used as a distraction.The drastic drop in vehicle traffic has cut the pollution so much that scientists are reporting the “Earth” has started to heal.And,probably due to cutbacks,the monitoring is not being carried out as it should be,plus whilst this crisis is going on people will be burning rubbish (all kinds)in their gardens without regulation.How many log burners will be fired up on the south coast ar this time of year???

      • Adrian Reply

        The fact remains that the PM2.5 value in Brighton is still above the annual average and it is now April when the wood burning season should have ended long ago. If you look at the main monitor in Preston Park the values clearly show a spike most evenings which suggests the source of the PM2.5 is wood and coal burning. I actually walked round the residential area around Preston Park a couple of days ago and it stank of burning.

  7. James Thomas Reply

    Our local is now closed and as regular users we are gathering lots of garden waste. We compost everything we can but there is still plenty of woody material!We use our bamboo as garden stakes and recycle what we can of other wood. However,rats love an untidy garden and we are starting to get those too!
    Burning dry wood and dry weeds is the best way to tidy up and the residual wood ash is put out as compost.

  8. Dean Reply

    With no public services available and rubbish tips closed no wonder. People are burning there rubbish. End of. No saying its a good idea but that’s is what’s happening

  9. Macfcuk Reply

    What utter bs , worried about an occasional wiff of smoke from a wood stove, and they still sell cigarettes,and what does prof Christian Carlson heat his home with

  10. HJW Reply

    Comparing bonfires and wood burning stoves in quite bizarre. Modern wood burning stoves and very clean and emit a tiny amount of PM2.5 compared with unregulated burning of bonfires and open fires. Air quality is important, and bad comparisons like this does no good at all. Wood burning stoves are part of the solution to cleaner air and by burning renewable wood they will also help us with the carbon emission problem. If the goal is to become more sustainable and have cleaner air then this kind of sloppy journalism is really quite dangerous.

    • John Reply

      Thank you, beautifully said.

      • John Reply

        I was referring to HJW’s comment on woodburning stoves

    • Alan Smith Reply

      HJU you have been fooled by the wood burning industry’s claim that the “approved” ECO and DEFA wood stoves are clean burning. They still emit as much smoke as 100 cars and pose a huge threat to neighbours’ health and lives and society in general.

  11. Richard Reply

    Overall result?

  12. Ed Green Reply

    Over here in the States there are more and More municipalities attempting to pass restrictions on people heating with wood stoves because people are offended by a little wood smoke. I have a quality catalytic wood stove and except for occasionally smoking due to weather conditions or an odd green log on the fire it is usually very clean burning. I find it worrisome when the govt decides to intrude further inside my home,irritating when they want to essentially legislate further dependence on non renewable fossil fuels. I can understand when there is a massive shift by the general population to to more economical wood burning from in my opinion, overpriced publically subsidized fossil fuels but still find it obtrusive. Too many newbies installing poor burning stoves using sub standard woods I guess. The suggestion that cigarette smoking be banned is a good one. Good luck enforcing that one!!! Well, stay safe and stay healthy as you can.

  13. Lloydy Reply

    What a load of crap, the air has never been cleaner than it has at the moment since before the coal fires were spewing out black smoke. It’s doubtful a few wood burning stoves are going to make any form of impact given how many vehicles are currently parked up during lockdown!

    • Billy Reply

      Try taking a walk around the Preston drove area in the evenings, the air is acrid with the smell of woodsmoke.

  14. YOASHA Reply

    With people staying at homes and breathing indoor air how they can be exposed to the outdoor woodstove s m o k e ?!

    • Alan Smith Reply

      YOASHA Houses are not airtight and tests show that indoor air is 70% as polluted as outdoor.

  15. Russell Reply

    So this article is based on one unnamed person with some sort of monitor on his roof? Come on this isn’t the Argus with their made up stories

  16. Mark S. Blewitt Reply

    Perhaps we could ask the sea, a major source of Air Pollution Particulate Matter (PMs), to give it a break too. The air has never been cleaner.

    We all have something way bigger than this on our plate at the moment.
    Our government has relaxed things that need relaxing and tightened things that need titening up in a bid to beat Covid-19. Now the council is asking us to fotego the simple pleasure of a clean burning wood stove.

    • Glen Harland Reply

      Sea salt and soot from combustion are two very different things. Soot from combustion is the most hazardous pollutant – even more hazardous than number 2, which is radon gas.

  17. Alan Smith Reply

    Russel the are several thousand personal monitors such the PurpleAir.com model air use around the world and they are identifying high localized levels of smoke in around and in their home where there is wood burning nearby. The government monitoring in a few locations is misleading.
    The approved models Defra, Eco EPA/CSA models do not reduce pollution by a significant amount. Libby, Montana USA changed all the wood stoves for “approved” models at a cost of $1.4 million and air quality standards are still being exceeded.

  18. Dale Reply

    Absolute bullshit! The sky the rain snow is cleaner than I’v seen it in last 50 years.

  19. Andrew Genovese Reply

    Brighton & Hove city council have a smoke control area however following a freedom of information request, I can reveal they have not prosecuted anyone for over 10 years.

    They did a solid fuel survey about 8 years ago and discovered most people did not know about/understand the smoke control area. When the leaflets ran out they stopped printing them.

    In short they are reckless to the point of committing misconduct.

    Buy defra or ecodesign stoves avoid open fires, burn dry fuel. The message is really simple.

  20. Jeff Reply

    What about large businesses. They produce more “dirty” air in 1 day than all the wood burning in canada. Have you asked them to stop producing?i bet not. Are you going to pay for my hike in power and gas because of this. I bet not. Hows about you you get the money that almost every canadian needs into their accounts. Then worry about something like this.

    • Glen Harland Reply

      Almost everywhere wood stoves are used, they cause more PM2.5 pollution than traffic and industry combined. Sydney, Australia for example – only 4% of households have wood stoves but they account for 50.6% of total annual PM2.5, despite not going all year round.

  21. Jelly Reply

    Mmm mmm no silver bins emptied burn your cardboard they say 😳

  22. Robert Vezina Reply

    Blatant propaganda. Total rubbish. Another weak attempt at making You dependant on their oil and electricity. They can Phuque right off. Those allegedly complaining are either too weak for the gene pool or should stay the Phuque inside till they’re well. When will good people WAKE UP?

  23. Me Reply

    Don’t fart unless your 2 metres apart from people. Otherwise karma will get yoù 😂

  24. archie b watt Reply

    I have built a static water generator, which produces electricity free, and have been working on it for heating homes
    Just have to complete the patent
    The total costs are only maintenance of the appliance it uses no fuel and works 24 hours with absolutely no pollution.
    I would not worry ‘re wood burning stoves,but would worry regarding all the incinerators being built to incinerate all our rubbish. We have the largest landfill site in Europe on our doorstep, with the addition of this incinerator being built adjacent to this landfill site.i wonder if Scotland wants to eradicate completely our village
    Remember the pollution caused by chernoble just because it rained.we could not sell our sheep for years after the dust settled in Scotland.The list of chemicals from these incinerators including PCBs and heavy metals is frightening,the rain we all get will do the same in London southern England as in Scotland.
    Why don’t we dissuade the real culprit, manufacturers who will not change to bio degradables because of costs.

  25. J. Vasquez Reply

    I just have one question. I noticed when I was using a bright led hradlamp, outside in the dark when no other lighting is noticeable, that there are very fine and shiny dust particles in the air. And after being outside for a number of hours, it felt like I had been breathing something that was starting to make my throat sore and tight. I noticed this a fee years ago in my house too, didn’t know to think.

  26. Glen Harland Reply

    “The gases and particles in polluted air damage the natural defense systems that fight respiratory viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2.

    “Such pollution weakens our first line of defense—our lungs, including the protective cells and fluid lining our airways and the specialized proteins that fight against invading organisms.”

    Enough said really. Wood burning is the largest source of and the most damaging form of such pollution. I don’t understand why it doesn’t sink in.

  27. Dave Reply

    Why not just imprison everyone? At least we’ll get 3 meals a day and no bills to pay as we’re all screwed any way. If councils can think of more ways to undermine the public at these impossible times then just pile on some more stress and uncertainty….topped off I’m sure with misery. Is this life now, because nobody has a life now….

  28. Nic S Reply

    What a complete nonsense and once again irresponsible and lazy journalism. Industry has worked with Defra to promote the use of new Eco-design stoves which are far more efficient than older stoves or more importantly open fires. Defra have also now introduced a ban on the sale of wet wood (Feb 2021)and coal. These two factors will help to reduce particulate emissions and ensure that wood burning is part of the solution for using sustainable and renewable energy. And, here we are, in difficult times, all having to work from home and someone (‘Adrian’) is monitoring air quality on his roof. Come on, lets get real here. you cant tell me that ‘Adrian’ doesn’t have a hidden agenda here and please tell me how he can influence the Council sufficiently enough to get this report written when our air is cleaner than ever. And, why is it so clean? – Because there are far less cars and lorries driving around for one.

    • Adrian Reply

      Hi, I’m Adrian (Hill), I am real, I should have given my surname with the article but I’ve never given a report before. I do have an agenda and that is clean air. The reason for that agenda is because I have very poor respiratory health and in the past it has been life threatening. I have not been able to live a normal life the last few years. I lost my job following a spell of poor health after struggling to breathe. Whenever I’ve taken myself away from pockets of pollution for a few weeks my respiratory health has improved drastically. I do actually want to move to a cleaner area but I have not been able to sell my house and I also know of others like me.

      The levels of PM2.5 are still now (5th April) above the annual average, the levels peak in the evenings suggesting strongly that solid fuel burning is to blame and a week ago they were actually above the WHO guidelines for health. Many people in Brighton are still using dirty stoves, dirty fuels and PM2.5 remains a problem. An exempt stove is still responsible for the same amount of PM2.5 as 18 newer diesel cars
      driving around Brighton for an hour or 400x the amount of gas central heating.

      A city wide smoke control area in Brighton would still allow defra approved stoves and it would allow people to burn wood in those defra approved stoves but it would enable the council to ask people to stop burning in the most polluting of ways.

  29. HJW Reply

    Alan Smith – That is a big claim you make. Have you got the evidence? If this was indeed true then the recent air quality figures for PM2.5 would not look as good, especially as many people here are claiming that wood burning stoves and bonfires are being used a lot more now. There is also academic research that would undermine your claim. The point I am making is that air quality is of vital importance and in order to effectively deal with this we need to use the cleanest possible technology. I am a realist and by using new Eco-design wood burning stoves which emit 90% less smoke than open fires (and let’s not even go to bonfires…) we a realistic chance of improvement.

  30. kevin Reply

    Another retarded statement from A clueless council!.. what’s wrong with these idiots.. we as human beings have been living with and beside fires for thousands of years.. one dodgy bug and the planet turns to shite.. Haha scaremongering – removal of our freedoms – this should be called “CON VIRUS19” SPREADING FEAR AND DIS‐INFORMATION is the name of the game now around the world.. pushing us all indoors..

    • Chris Reply

      I would like to reply to this by saying with the pollution the way it is. Is it a good thing and has anyone even considered the fact that this pollution could be helping to the destructive means of that which affects us now. Not all cures are good but they can help dramatically. All forms and factors should be considered you may find the simplest cure to be the most offective.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      Your comment appears to have strayed from the Argus!

  31. Geoff Reply

    Tell that to the stupid b***h who has been burning plastic waste in Dorothy Avenue, Peacehaven.

  32. Lee Reply

    People using woodburners are completely inconsiderate and killing their neighbours, I’ve had to move 3 times the last 2 years due to these damn things. THERE IS A THING CALLED A RADIATOR!! We don’t live in the middle ages anymore!!! Woodburners need to be banned outright not just during the outbreak.

  33. LizD Reply

    I feel like I can’t breath, like slow suffocation because in the area where I live they like to BBQ every sodding meal, starting in the morning. Due to monetary challenges the majority burn anything they can get their hands on rather than buy, so the fumes are dreadful. I have really noticed my chronic asthma getting worse in this lockdown as surrounded daily with constant BBQ’s and also bonfires to burn rubbish. Plus my neighbour literally tried to burn down his garage ready for demolition, with everything in it! Toxic fumes almost killed me off. What I don’t get is people’s genuine ignorance and unconcern for others! People when you confront them don’t care – I am the problem!

  34. Anon Reply

    Please be aware…anonymous Bonfire Police operate in Hickstead

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