Hi, my name is Ebony, and I have severe eosinophilic asthma. Every year, I dread the arrival of winter and the inevitable firing up of woodfire heaters.
The smoke produced by a woodfire is dangerous for my asthma and causes me to get sick, even on all my medication. During winter, it is impossible to avoid – but it shouldn’t be.
I currently live in inner-city Sydney but I grew up in Armidale, NSW. Armidale is freezing! It’s located in a valley on top of a mountain, so when people light up their woodfires, the smoke sits in the natural bowl and creates a haze over the town.
As you might imagine, this smoke haze causes a lot of grief for people like me with asthma, and those with other health conditions.
As a child and as a young adult, I was hospitalised countless times for my asthma with smoke as the trigger. I thought once I moved to Sydney it would be better…but I was so wrong.
Several years ago, I moved into a unit block next to an old heritage house. I live on the second floor which looks over their roof and during winter the smoke from their woodfire is unbearable.
My partner and I have had to block all the air vents in our unit – and we rarely open the windows during winter. Everyone felt the pain of COVID-19 lockdowns, but this is literally me every winter, I basically go into lockdown.
Despite our efforts, the smoke is completely unavoidable. All I really want is to be able to live normally without smoke trigging dangerous attacks. I really just want to walk outside in the evening with my partner, but that’s the peak time for smoke.
From everyone like me out there in your neighbourhood, if you don’t need to use fire to warm you home then please consider your options. Your woodfire heaters might be the reason someone like me ends up in hospital.
Sydney is a high-density city where heating is only required for a small portion of the year, yet we still allow people to burn woodfires. With so many alternative heating options now available it seems absurd to me that people still burn fires that pollute the air.
This Winter, we’re asking you to help us raise awareness about the health impact of woodfire heater smoke. Share this story and help us support people with asthma to live freely.
Asthma Australia would like to thank Ebony for her courage and for sharing her story as a part of the Asthma Champion Program. Your story will inspire others to share theirs.
Do you have a story to tell? Become an Asthma Champion today.