Woodfire heater smoke is a risk factor for developing asthma and triggering symptoms in people who already have asthma. It is also a risk factor for other respiratory illnesses, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, premature birth, and premature death.

Woodfire heater smoke contains harmful pollutants known as particulate matter that are easily breathed in and enter the body via the lungs. The small particles or PM2.5 in woodfire smoke are especially dangerous, and there is no safe level of exposure to PM2.5 – this means even low levels of PM2.5 can trigger asthma symptoms and cause health impacts.

This has a direct health impact on people with asthma, from increased symptoms to hospitalisation – greatly impacting their ability to live freely in our communities. In some parts of Australia, woodfire heater smoke is the largest source of winter air pollution even though just 7% of Australian homes rely on woodfires as a main source of heating.

While home heating can be vital during the colder months, it shouldn’t cause health problems for neighbours.

With healthier heating alternatives available, Asthma Australia wants to see woodfire heaters phased out. We know it is expensive to switch to efficient, reverse cycle air conditioning, and this is where governments need to step in – and the Australian public agrees with us.

In a nationally representative survey of 25,000 people completed in November 2020, Asthma Australia asked the Australian public about their attitudes to woodfire heaters and their regulation.

We found most people, particularly those with asthma, support leaving woodfire heaters behind for better, healthier alternatives.

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.

People who are exposed to woodfire heaters said they are largely unable to protect themselves from the smoke, further demonstrating the need for government regulation.

Asthma Australia has a number of policy recommendations to minimise the harm caused by woodfire heater smoke which is detailed in our woodfire smoke policy position.

Our survey has confirmed what people with asthma have been telling us for years: government and community action is needed to switch towards healthier heating options.

HOW YOU CAN HELP.

Write to us

Send us an email at champion@asthma.org.au

Explain the health impact this is having on you or your loved one’s asthma. Your story will help us advocate for reforms to help people with asthma in our submissions to governments or meetings with decision-makers. We are happy to share this anonymously.

Woodfire heater replacement schemes

If you live in Canberra, the territory government has a woodfire heater replacement scheme. A subsidy scheme has also been announced in Victoria. You can share these links on your community Facebook pages or share them with your friends to encourage them to switch.

 

References

https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/helping-vulnerable-victorians-stay-warm-and-cool-less

https://www.actsmart.act.gov.au/what-can-i-do/homes/wood-heater-replacement-program