Asthma Australia is encouraging people in Victoria and the ACT to take up government subsidies where available to replace their woodfire heaters and help clean up our winter air.
Smoke pollution from domestic woodfire heaters is one of the largest sources of air pollution during winter months in many areas. It is directly linked to increased asthma symptoms, hospitalisations, and premature deaths.
CEO of Asthma Australia Michele Goldman welcomes woodfire heater replacement subsidies but says they need to be promoted to ensure residents take advantage of them.
“Governments are offering these woodfire heater replacement subsidies because woodfire heaters are an inefficient form of home heating that causes air pollution,” Ms Goldman said.
“Just 7% of homes use woodfire heaters yet they are the main source of fine particulate pollution in winter in many areas.
“These tiny smoke particles are breathed in deep into our airways, which is not only problematic for asthma and other respiratory conditions but causes problems when these fine particulates enter the bloodstream.
“We get many complaints from people in the community who are completely frustrated by neighbourhood homes using woodfire heaters. They feel helpless to escape the smoke, which triggers their asthma and affects their lives. In fact, a nationally representative survey by Asthma Australia found less than a third of people are able to protect themselves from woodfire heater smoke when it’s present.”
In the ACT, rebates of up to $1,250 are available to replace woodfire heaters with reverse cycle air conditioning. In Victoria, low-income households can access rebates of $1,000 to replace a woodfire, gas or electric heater with efficient reverse cycle air conditioning.
A Victorian Parliamentary Committee conducted a major review of air pollution last year which had a significant focus on woodfire heater smoke. The Victorian Government is due to report on the findings soon, and Asthma Australia hopes to see a commitment to support the existing woodfire heater replacement scheme with measures to reduce the number of woodfire heaters being installed in Victorian homes.
Asthma Australia encourages other states to also introduce similar schemes, where appropriate.
What are local governments doing?
Local governments are increasingly recognising the risks associated with woodfire heaters.
Recently, the City of Yarra in Melbourne passed a motion that the Municipal Association of Victoria should advocate for councils to have stronger powers to regulate woodfire heaters, including the ability to prohibit installation of new woodfire heaters.
A study commissioned by Port Adelaide Enfield Council found woodfire heater smoke was a considerable contributor to poor local air quality.
Does the community support a phase out?
Community groups across Australia are also highlighting the dangers of woodfire heaters and campaigning for cleaner winter air.
Asthma Australia is calling on all levels of governments to continue tackling the issue, with the majority of the community agreeing woodfire heaters should not be allowed in urban and built-up areas and supporting a phase out.
In a nationally representative survey of 25,000 people in November 2020, Asthma Australia asked the public about their attitudes to woodfire heaters and their regulation.
“Our nationally representative survey of 25,000 people found most people support phasing out woodfire heaters in favour of better, healthier alternatives, with even higher numbers of people with asthma supporting a phase out,” Ms Goldman said.
Three-quarters of the general population (77%) agree that woodfire 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%).
Support for regulation was even higher amongst people with asthma with 84% support for regulation of woodfire heaters in urban built-up areas, 71% support for a scheme to phase them out completely, and 65% agreeing they should be banned.
For more information: Teresa Vella, Brand and Engagement Lead 0403 895 144 e. firstname.lastname@example.org