Despite the winter chill, the Australian Capital Territory will be the first government to phase out wood heaters due to health and environmental impacts, including asthma risk.
Asthma Australia is today applauding the in-principal agreement to ban the installation of new wood heaters in all ACT suburbs.
With gas also being phased out and electrification of homes being the focus, this latest announcement positions Canberra as the future ‘Clean Air Capital’.
“We applaud the ACT Government for agreeing to this significant recommendation, which is a breakthrough for Australia,” CEO of Asthma Australia Ms Goldman said. “People with asthma and carers of children affected will be very relieved by this news, although it will be some time before it comes into effect.”
She added, “If a chilly location like Canberra can achieve change on such a stubborn issue, then we’d be looking to other states to embrace this change.”
Asthma Australia is the peak body representing 2.7 million people living with asthma and has consistently called for wood heaters to be phased out due to air quality, health and environmental impacts.
Wood heater smoke is linked to several serious health conditions including asthma, chronic lung disease, heart problems and premature births and deaths.
In winter, smoke from domestic wood heaters is the main source of air pollution in the ACT.
The Government’s recommendations come in response to the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment’s investigation into wood heaters released earlier this year.
“Public opinion is clear and along with science and health impacts, it’s incumbent on governments to move quickly to take action, appreciating the complexity of the task. 2045 is a long time away and this transition could come sooner, in line with the ACT Government’s recent announcement to stop gas installations,” Ms Goldman added.
The ACT Government is being urged to move quickly to update its Wood Heater Replacement Program and ensure that low-income households receive the support they need to be able to transition towards healthier ways to heat their homes.
While the ACT Government has agreed to include explicit messaging about the health risks associated with wood heater use in education and communication activities, there is no safe level of exposure to wood heater smoke pollution. This means that the ‘Burn Right Tonight’ messaging is potentially misleading.
“Even low levels of wood heater smoke cause health problems. Continuing to say that you can ‘Burn Right Tonight’ is counterproductive. There are more efficient alternatives that cost less to use and don’t cause harm or yourself or your neighbours,” said Ms Goldman.
In 2020 Asthma Australia canvassed the views of 25,000 people on their attitudes to wood heaters and found three-quarters of the general population surveyed (77%) agree that wood heaters should not be allowed in urban or built-up areas and over half agree they should be phased out (55%) or banned completely (54%).
The peak health body for asthma has outlined its wood heater policy position which was supported by the Commissioner’s recommendations as follows:
- Phase out wood heaters through a replacement scheme with a timeframe.
- Banning the installation of new wood heaters in new and existing builds.
- Mandate the removal of wood heaters before a property can be sold.
- With the addition of a register to keep track of the age of wood heaters.