You Are Not Alone

Some Examples of Case Histories/Comments:

Brisbane.  A slow combustion wood heater is installed next door to a family and is used almost continually from April to September most years.  The heater owner is personally shown how to operate his heater by the heater salesman. All the timber burned is old house stumps which would have been treated for termite control over many years with poisons such as arsenic, dieldrin, DDT, etc.  The pungent heater emissions invade the family's house, even when windows and doors are closed.  The council says that while it is not advisable to burn the timber, there is nothing they can do about it.  The family is forced to move because of health problems caused by the wood heater emissions.  After the family moves into the new address, wood heaters are installed close-by and the air changes again from clear to smoky for about four months each year.

Brisbane.  An elderly couple and seven other households complain to their council about the thick dense smoke that pours out of a neighbour's chimney.  This problem has existed for about five years and despite much correspondence between them, council and a legal centre, the problem has not stopped, despite a supporting health report from a local GP.  The couple's smoke detectors have often been triggered by the wood heater emissions and the house inundated with smoke.  Following further complaints in May 2001, use of the heater decreased, although windows and doors still had to be kept closed when the heater was in operation.  However another complaint was made in July 2002 following acrid smelling smoke pouring out of the chimney into the house next door.

Greater Brisbane Area.  A slow combustion wood heater was installed next door to an elderly lady and the emissions blew directly into her house.  Most nights she was forced to vacate her house and sleep at the homes of friends (although she hated imposing on them) or sleep underneath her home - an old Queenslander open to the elements. Despite numerous phone calls and letters to the council, plus four witness statements to support her situation, the council replied that she had not supplied enough evidence to take legal action.  Her local Councillor suggested that she install an air-conditioner in her bedroom, get a carpenter to seal the house (heritage listed) and asked if she had considered moving to a retirement village.

Brisbane.  A husband with emphysema and his asthmatic wife lived next-door to where a wood heater was installed.  Their health problems were exacerbated by the chimney's emissions and they particularly remember their neighbour cutting down a leopard tree and using that wood as fuel in his heater.  That, especially "produced the most foul smelling smoke".  They moved to get away from the pollution, but are now very concerned about the increasing numbers of wood heaters in their residential area.

Greater Brisbane Area.  A compliant wood heater was installed autumn 2000 and the person living next door was immediately affected by its emissions.  The lady has always been allergic to smoke from cigarettes and fires, but she felt she had a choice and if she didn't feel like facing the smoke hazard she could simply stay at home.  However she feels that she does not have a choice when it comes to avoiding smoke from her neighbour's wood heater, as the emissions enter her house and property.  Her health and lifestyle are severely affected during the burning season, but she notices that all her distressing symptoms disappear when the neighbour stops lighting the heater.

Greater Brisbane Area. A wood heater was installed next door to a family approximately 1998. The heater is used almost continually for about five or six months of the year and its emissions, although not always highly visible, can be very pungent in odour.  The family will not complain to council because they fear retaliation.  During winter 2002, one of the occupants spoke of two family members now suffering from asthma and worries that the wood heater emissions could have contributed to that health problem.

NSW South Coast.  A family moved there to escape the pollution of western Sydney.  However they were awakened at 3am one morning by activation of their smoke detector.  They had left a window open for ventilation on an autumn evening, however the emissions from one of their neighbour's AS4013 wood heaters set the alarm off.  Their son's asthma, which had greatly improved since moving, returned with a vengeance, the wife now suffers with dry eye syndrome and the husband suffers with severe sinusitis.   The property on the other side also has a wood heater, so no matter how the wind blows, wood heater emissions are continually entering their property.  "The biggest problem is smouldering.  People turn their heaters down during the day so they don't have to re-light them at night but that smoke pollutes the air and is known to be carcinogenice."

NSW.  Letter from a woman concerned about wood smoke and the inference that (a) air pollution is mainly caused by old heaters and (b) firewood is a renewable resource and is obtained from plantation timber "All the wood heaters being used in my area are newly installed AS4013.  These are the problem not part of the solution.  AS4013 heaters are not designed to burn softwoods.  I rang around the firewood suppliers once to see if their sources were plantations - some said no, some just laughed".

Community Comments taken from EPA Victoria Draft IWMP (Solid Fuel Heating):

"We are experiencing ill health as a result of smoke from our neighbour's old wood heater entering our home on a regular basis...Our health is being significantly affected - we are suffering shortness of breath, sinus pain, headaches, sore throats, and exacerbation of asthma".

"On many occasions there is a thick pall of smoke emanating from the wood heater's chimney (next door).  This smoke literally confines the members of my household indoor, as the outside air is asphyxiating."

"On still nights in winter it is impossible to sleep with the window open because of the smell (of wood smoke)".

"I have two young children who suffer from asthma.  Although no one smokes in my home, my neighbour's smoke comes in my windows, and curtains, bedding etc smells like smoke".

"The Monash City Council is at present being inundated with complaints related to smoke from (wood combustion) heaters causing a nuisance."

"Living in the City of Casey had been an absolute nightmare, we were forced out of our new home in Berwick because of our neighbour's constant smoke which permeated throughout our home and garden seven days a week, this move cost us over $40,000 in blood, sweat and tears."

"My family was forced to move from a previous address because of the continual emissions of toxic smoke and fumes from our neighbour's slow combustion wood heater."

"When I go for my morning walk in winter in air that should be fresh but is instead full of smoke I almost feel I need a breathing mask on."