Last weekend, air pollution in London reached an all-time high of 10 according to the UK government’s index. The devices measured the highest concentrations of solid particles in the southwestern suburbs of the city. The newspaper wrote that this was the worst situation in London recorded since January 2017 Watchman.
These moments, of course, have a negative impact on the health of the population. According to a five-year study published in 2021, to which more than a million city residents responded, the number of visits to general practitioners is rising sharply after a short-term increase in air pollution. People complain more about the respiratory system, and doctors also prescribe more inhalers. British pediatricians have also noted an increase in the number of children undergoing surgeries.
According to data on the chemical composition of pollution collected by King’s College London, wood burning in homes played a large role in the increase in pollution last weekend. Analysis of particulate matter inhaled by Londoners showed that 60 to 70 percent of it came from heating with wood or solid fuels. On average, home chimneys in the UK produce more smoke than exhaust from all road traffic in a full year.
Among the measures leading to the reduction of flue gases in London, for example, is the so-called smoke-free zone (SCA). This is an area where people and businesses aren’t allowed to release any flue gas, and they can’t even buy or sell unauthorized fuel, unless it’s for equipment that has an exception to the rule.
Solid fuel exclusion zones have been in place since the 1950s and cover parts of most UK cities. Here, people burning solid fuels must use approved appliances or burn smokeless fuels. Burning wood with open fire is prohibited in these areas.
People need to know the laws
However, the imposition of fines or control of combustion plants by the authorities remains ineffective. The way in which they fail to solve this problem in the long term has been noted by Dr. James Haydon of the University of Nottingham. He processed applications to local councils, as well as records of interviews with staff from British city councils. Through a sample of responses it collected from dozens of municipalities, it found that between 2014 and 2020, a total of 2,524 Britons complained of chimney smoke. Despite this number of complaints, only two municipal councils have taken legal action, a total of just four cases in six years!
“A number of hurdles, including responding to complaints made outside of working hours, (not) being able to see the smoke at night, or gathering insufficient evidence to determine the source of the smoke from an unverified source, make this problem difficult to solve,” he says. Haydon says.
According to him, laws should not be enforced through the courts, but compliance with them requires that people at least know about them. Another survey by Defra found that 46 percent of stove owners in smoke-free areas don’t even know if their solid fuel stove is approved for use. Only one in ten Londoners who burn wood here knew that their stove was not approved. This, according to the survey, indicates the need for better public awareness.
Wood and other solid fuels are the most polluting ways to heat homes, especially when using open fire. A combination of outdated regulations combined with poor information about residents and toothless enforcement has caused heating homes with wood and solid fuels to become normal behaviour. The Guardian concludes that without further action, it will be very difficult for the UK to meet its air pollution reduction targets in the future.
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