Some (Overlooked/Ignored) Costs of Wood Smoke Pollution
Costs to neighbours:
Personal suffering from ill-health, on-going medical costs, GP and Specialist visits and hospitalisation. Loss of enjoyment of property. Costs installing and running sophisticated air filtering/air conditioning devices to try and keep out chimney emissions. Unnecessary electricity costs running clothes dryers because clothes on the line become smoky. More regular washing down of houses due to soot fall-out from neighbour’s chimney. Unwanted conflict with owners of wood heaters who do not want to know that their chimney emissions make neighbours sick. Costs of moving house.
Costs to the Health Care System:
A high percentage of the population suffer from cardiovascular, respiratory and allergic conditions which are exacerbated by wood smoke. There is also additional concern about long-term effects of particle pollution (most of wood smoke particles are 2.5 microns in diameter and less). "A more recent study has increased the concern about the long-term effects of PM2.5 (Pope et al, 2002). The results of this study, which is a follow-up of the 1995 ACS Study (Pope et al, 1995), found that long-term exposure to PM2.5 is strongly associated with increases in all cause, lung cancer and cardiopulmonary mortality. The results of this study have raised renewed concern over the importance of the long-term effects of exposure to PM2.5." Impact Statement for the Variation to the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure, October 2002.
Costs to Government Environmental Agencies:
Government agencies continue to spend significant amounts of taxpayers’ money trying to educate people how to operate wood heaters. From our reports there has been little, if any improvement.
For example, in WA an education campaign which ran during winter 1999 and which was thoroughly evaluated by the WA government before, during and after, found that there was a minus 1% change in people’s behaviour.
Environment Canterbury (NZ) did a similar scheme in 1996/97 with similar results no changed behaviour. They have now decided to ban open fires and new enclosed solid fuel burners from 2005 and phase out all solid fuel burning by 2020. For more details see Environment Canterbury’s Air section at http://www.ecan.govt.nz.
Wood Heater Exchange Programs - $2.05m Launceston http://www.ea.gov.au/atmosphere/airquality/woodsmoke/index.html;
$1m NSW Clean Air Fund wood heater replacement scheme http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/media/0602/reduction.htm.
Costs to Local Authorities:
Local authorities are given responsibility to handle wood heater complaints. This places an added burden on scarce resources.
Costs to the Environment:
As advised by Environment Australia http://www.biodiversity.environment.gov.au/firewood/factsheet.html, "Up to 6 million tonnes of fuelwood is consumed in Australia each year (two thirds of which is used for domestic heating). This figure is double that of annual exports of eucalypt woodchips....In its present form this industry is unsustainable taking much more wood than is replaced and silently destroying remnant vegetation and wildlife." Although firewood plantation timber is now being promoted to reduce this harm, trees take a much longer time to grow than to burn and plantation timber still pollutes when burned in uncontrolled domestic heaters, plus environmental problems can occur again when firewood plantations are harvested.
Costs to Tourism:
The visual and odorous effect of air pollution is not welcomed by visitors.