Experts warn on dangers of wood smoke

In winter, household indoor wood heaters can contribute up to 75 per cent of particle pollution in some areas of NSW, according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

EPA research shows that air quality is the second most important environmental issue to residents, following water issues.

Wood smoke pollution affects everyone. Even in small amounts, wood smoke pollutants can be harmful especially to the young, frail or elderly.

Wood smoke pollution affects everyone. Even in small amounts, wood smoke pollutants can be harmful especially to the young, frail or elderly.

No complaints have been received by the Upper Lachlan Shire Council in the past 12 months, acting general manager Andrew Croke said.

However, information released by the Australian Air Quality Group warns of the health dangers of wood smoke. The research warns that burning 15 kilograms of wood (an evening's heat) creates more health-hazardous compounds than 240,000 cigarettes.

Associate Professor in Public Health at the University of Tasmania, Dr Fay Johnston, says that "bushfire smoke and the smoke produced by wood heaters have much in common. They, along with tobacco smoke, are examples of biomass smoke - emissions that come from burning organic matter such as grass, leaves or wood.

"Biomass smoke is a toxic soup of hundreds of different chemicals that includes many well-known toxins and carcinogens."

Some local governments have acted to assist householders to replace poorly functioning wood heaters.

Since 2004, the ACT government has offered cash rebates to householders to replace wood heaters with ducted heating. In Tasmania, the Launceston City Council commenced a buy-back scheme in the early 2000s to reduce the number of wood heaters by 40 per cent.

The nearest air quality measurement in Cowra by the Office of Environment and Heritage shows evidence of suspended particles associated with a range of respiratory problems.