Wood Smoke Stories

Wood-burning heaters in Sydney

My neighbours have their wood fire going for 16 hours every day each year for five months. It is relentless. Their flue is just metres from my home and the smoke and stench penetrate every space. Windows and doors must remain closed always. Clothing cannot be hung out to dry. I cannot enjoy the luxury of feeling a nice breeze go through the house without the stench of wood smoke infiltrating the rooms.

I have spent thousands on air purifiers and taped the windows, and why? There are no public awareness campaigns concerning the danger of wood-burning heaters in Sydney. The environmental laws only cover excessive smoke and smoke abatement notices are seldom issued. Only 4-5% of households use wood-burning heaters, yet these heaters account for over half of all particulate matter emissions annually. Through heavy regulation, information campaigns and other policies, we have reduced the percentage of smokers in Australia over time. Where is the community action against wood smoke? Most people think they’re harmless. They don’t understand just how much pollution one chimney/flue alone can emit.

I dread every winter. I’m very unlucky to be residing next to the sole wood heater user in the street. There is an emotional attachment people have to their wood heaters, and it is a shame and disgrace when it comes at the expense of communal air quality, the environment and the respiratory health of nearby residents. They should be banned completely from densely populated areas.