Your winter smoke could be impacting neighbours and the environment

IF you’re looking at using your wood heater this winter, Wollongong City Council is advising that it is important to take steps to reduce its impact on the environment.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said smoke from wood heaters can not only be bad for health but can be a major cause of air pollution. He said wood smoke can cause breathing difficulties, especially for asthmatics and other respiratory issues, young children and frail older people.

“As we start to get into the colder months of the year, we know many of our residents opt to stay warm using wood heaters,” he said.

“However, this choice of warmth becomes a concern when you can start to see and smell the smoke and this impacts our environment and the health of those around us. According to the EPA, there’s evidence that smoke pollution can cause cardiac problems, and anyone with asthma can tell you how it affects them.

“If you’re opting to use a wood heater this winter, I ask you do the right thing and make sure you follow some simple steps to reduce wood smoke pollution.’’

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) recommends the following steps to reduce wood smoke pollution. These are:

  • Maintain a bright flame and don’t let your fire smoulder overnight by keeping enough air to maintain a flame.
  • Your fire should only smoke when you first light it or when you add extra fuel. Increase the air supply if your chimney is smoking
  • Burn only dry, aged hardwood. Fresh cut wood should be stored for at least 8-12 months before it is burned.
  • Store wood in a dry, covered area that’s well ventilated.
  • Never burn treated wood, painted wood, driftwood or rubbish
  • Use several small logs rather than one large log, and stack them loosely
  • When lighting a cold heater, use lots of dry kindling
  • Have your chimney cleaned every year to keep air flowing well.
  • If you’re buying a wood heater, make sure it meets the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 4013:1999).

If you’re thinking of installing a wood heater in your home, remember you will need Council’s permission to do so. For more information, additional resources and how to apply visit Council’s Wood Heaters page.

If you have problems caused by smoke of a neighbour’s wood heater you can report it to Council as an air pollution issue. This can also be done by calling Council’s customer service on (02) 4227 7111.

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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick managed several community newspapers. He has been editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


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