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Dodgy Data on Woodburners

May 26, 2022

How The Media & Government Got it SO WRONG Over Woodburner Emissions

Ministers over-estimated emissions from woodburners and open fires by a massive 100+%, it has emerged.

They claimed solid fuel appliances accounted for 38% of all particulate matter pollution in the air we breathe, and even based legislation on wood sales in England around it.

It has now been revealed that the figure is around just 17%. The reality is likely to be lower still.

* Fact check the government’s revised figures and the stats on UK particulate pollution with links at the end of this article.

The government arrived at the dodgy data because they:

  1. Used a 2014 survey which incorrectly estimated six millions tonnes of wood was being burnt a year. To put that figure into context, this would amount to more than half of ALL wood used in the UK each year, including industry, construction and packaging. The true figure is around 1.75 million tonnes.
  2. Relied on data from old stoves which are not as clean burning as more modern appliances, including Ecodesign stoves and woodburners
  3. Included pollution data from bonfires, barbecues, outdoor pizza ovens, garden waste burners and even wildfires

There have also been highly dubious media claims that a woodburner emits as much pollution as 15 diesel cars.

The basis of these claims come from very unscientific tests which:

  • Had a vehicle running at a slow speed – yet had the stove running at a higher rate than regular use
  • Only measure particulate matter pollution from the car’s exhaust, even though over 50% of particulate pollution from a car comes from its tyres and brakes
  • Failed to take into account that chimneys disperse emissions at height, whereas exhausts are at street level

Lawson Wight, chairman of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, said: “There’s an old saying that false information can travel half way around the world before the truth even gets its boots on, and that is certainly the case here. Who knew for example that particulate air pollution levels in the UK are the lowest they’ve ever been! (links to official data at the end of this article)

He added: “It is hard to understand that wide reaching government policies and even new laws have resulted from this dodgy data. Surely our ministers and their advisers have a responsibility to ensure they use research which is fit for purpose?”

“So will your stove or fire be ‘banned’ – this is very unlikely particularly as fireplace users and the public have been fed a diet of media misinformation based on dodgy data!”

“Thankfully, following sterling work by the industry, we are managing to fight back with facts.”

“Professional chimney sweeps have been at the forefront of educating the public on how to use their appliances correctly, efficiently and safely.”

“Moreover, let’s not forget that wood is a valuable source of renewable energy, and an increasingly important part of our nation’s energy security.”

“By having a woodburner installed and using it efficiently, you are not only providing an independent form of heating for your family, but you are helping reduce the call on fossil fuels such as gas.”

“We look forward to seeing much more sensible headlines in the future.”

*Fact Check: We understand it can be frustrating to read articles like this without official documents to back them up.  See the revised figures and new government research here: Report: Burning in UK homes and gardens (plus a number of annexes) – Defra, UK

*UK particulate matter air pollution is the LOWEST IT’S EVER BEEN. See the latest figures from National Statistics: Emissions of air pollutants in the UK – Particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


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