Asthma Australia is throwing its full support behind recommendations set down by the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment in their investigation into the health hazards of wood heater smoke titled ‘Can Canberra ‘Burn Right Tonight’ or is there ‘no safe level of air pollution’ due to be tabled at the Legislative Assembly.
The most effective recommendation is to phase out wood heaters completely through a variety of steps to remove the risk of inhaling wood smoke which contains toxic particulate matter PM2.5.
CEO of Asthma Australia Michele Goldman says, “there aren’t many places that get colder than Canberra, so I implore the ACT government to lead by example on this stubborn issue.”
“Every day in colder months, people with asthma across Australia and locally in Canberra are placed in vulnerable situations by their neighbour’s wood heater smoke wafting into their homes. It’s very difficult to be friendly with your neighbours when their heater is making you sick. Asthma is a life-threatening condition, and where else can people go if they are not safe at home? This investigation reaffirms the need to phase them out,” Ms Goldman said.
A case study in the investigation details a family living in Tuggeranong Valley where wood heater smoke is particularly bad. The family would send their children to stay at their grandparents’ house; one of the children has asthma. They have also gone to great lengths to try and stop the smoke from getting into their home “within the current policy settings there is no action that can be taken to address wood heater smoke at the neighbourhood level”.
“Unfortunately, this is the reality for so many people,” Ms Goldman said.
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 is 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.
“We are very supportive of all the recommendations such as mandatory labelling on wood heaters at point of sale, communication activities to educate the community around health risks of smoke and strengthening compliance measures,” Ms Goldman said.