Wood Smoke Stories

Polluted Norwich

I live in Norwich, Norfolk, UK. When we moved here in 2000 the air was clean and fresh during the day and especially the evenings. Now we are surrounded by many residents who burn both wood and coal.

We have installed a PurpleAir monitor which provides graphs and readings so we have evidence of the problem air quality generated by burning solid fuel. The WHO says you shouldn't exceed an average of 25ug/m3 in 24 hours more than 3 times a year but as you can see from this graph this has been exceeded over the last 5 days, which is the norm here in the winter months.

I have contacted Norwich City Council and have been told that it is not enough to smell smoke but we must be able to actually see it in our house before Environmental Health would class smoke pollution as a problem.

Every evening whether we shut our windows or not smoke pervades the whole house, when our cats go outside, they come in smelling of smoke so it affects our animals too. If we go for a walk it is in our clothes and hair when we come home. The problem gets worse every year as more and more residents decide to burn, although this is totally unnecessary pollution as they all have other forms of heating.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that wood is classed as ‘renewable’ which is true but it is not a clean renewable form of heating. You could say that coal is renewable which shows just how ridiculous it is that wood is classified as renewable—and that is the root of the whole problem. People have been persuaded to think that burning wood is somehow environmentally friendly, often by well intentioned but misguided environmentalists. In fact, burning wood is not only polluting to the air, it is not carbon neutral, and the sourcing of wood for UK power generation is destroying the woodlands of America. What a step backwards all this seems, back to a stone age technology.

The UK introduced Clean Air Acts in the 1950/60s to combat smoke pollution from coal burning, but that all seems to have been forgotten about now, and soon, we may be back to the ‘pea souper’ smogs of the 1950s. Like diesel cars—another misguided and damaging policy that ended up doing more harm than good.