Bonfire of the vanities
As sure as night follows day
Ah, the nights are drawing in, and to counter the cold and wet weather the mind turns to bonfires, fireworks, hot chocolate and snuggling up next to a real log fire. Unfortunately this romantic ideal of a cozy evening has the uncomfortable truth of being pretty bad for air quality. Of course we all know that burning things releases particulates and carbon dioxide (contributing not only to bad air quality but also climate change), but is it really that bad? Surely so few people have log fires and the cumulative effect must be tiny compared to pollution caused by traffic, right? Right?
Unfortunately not. According to this DEFRA report, the single biggest source of PM2.5 pollution is domestic burning, accounting for 27% of emissions. Of this, the majority is wood burning. There is a lot of coverage of the contribution to poor air quality from road vehicles, but much less so from wood burning stoves. The #CleanAirNight campaign run by Global Action Plan will run for four weeks, culminating in Clean Air Night on Wednesday 24 January 2024. During the campaign, leading experts will be discussing some of the issues with wood burning.
This issue came up when Louise spoke this week at the National Air Quality Conference at Lords. She was part of a wide ranging panel discussion covering everything from maternal and child health, training for health professionals on air quality, connecting with minority communities who are often hardest hit by pollution, through to traffic management in London boroughs and standardisation of air quality data. A report of the event is here. She was also able to meet with a number of companies working on monitoring technology and even met at least one avid reader of this blog!
Our new Brixton air quality monitor was also featured in our local newspaper The Brixton Bugle - thanks for the coverage! Taking a look at the data from the past week, there’s a big peak in PM2.5 concentration overnight on 4 November. It occurs in the average data too (this is an average of all Breathe London nodes, and marked as “Background” in the charts below) and is most likely due to bonfires.
Thanks for reading AirAware air quality! Subscribe for free to receive new posts.