Wood burning at home – careless not cosy

An innovative project has been launched to raise awareness and reduce air pollution caused by domestic wood burning in the borough.

Funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Air Quality Grant Scheme, the London Wood Burning Project is jointly led by Camden and Islington councils on behalf of 16 other London boroughs. 

Councillor Adam Harrison, Cabinet member for a Sustainable Camden

The Clean Air Act places restrictions on the use of some fuels and appliances in smoke control areas like Camden. Unfortunately, there is limited public knowledge about the air pollution and health harms from wood burning, and it is challenging to take enforcement action against illegal burning.

We have committed to the World Health Organization air quality standards, and this means we need to do everything we can to reduce all sources of air pollution to better protect the health of everyone who lives, works and learns in the borough.

We are proud to be jointly leading the ambitious London Wood Burning Project alongside Islington Council, as part of our broader effort to clean our air.

Domestic wood burning contributes 17% of the PM2.5 pollution in Greater London, despite most homes being connected to mains gas or electricity. We are therefore seeking to show residents that despite the cosy feeling of a household fire and the belief that wood burning is cheaper than using central heating, there are significant and proven pollution and health risks.

Councillor Adam Harrison, Cabinet member for a Sustainable Camden

Project research has included a public survey of wood burning habits and attitudes in the participating boroughs, air pollution measurement and analysis delivered by the Environmental Research Group at Imperial College, and a health impact evaluation delivered by Ricardo Energy & Environment.

Councillor Harrison continued:

“Our research has shown that the majority of residents surveyed were not aware of the direct link between solid fuel burning and air pollution, and the resultant risk for public health, and also indicated that many people are considering buying a solid fuel burning stove.

“While these can often be seen as a lifestyle purchase, there is clear evidence that wood burners and fireplaces lead to indoor air pollution whilst also contributing to pollution outdoors, and that this is the case even for appliances which are the highest rated for efficiency and emissions. Ultimately this work underlines the risks associated with using wood and solid fuels for home heating and highlights the fact that public complaints about smoke should be taken seriously.”

Ange Martin, a Camden resident living in West Hampstead said:

“Living in West Hampstead, I'm aware of the need to improve air quality. Finding out that wood burning contributes some of the most damaging pollution in London was a surprise to me. I hope that the London Wood Burning Project makes other people aware too and that they stop lighting their fires.”

You can find related links and read further information on the London Wood Burning Project website: