Wood burning stoves and air quality

Air pollution in Camden exceeds the World Health Organization’s guideline levels. Burning wood and coal at home emits dangerous pollution known as fine particulate matter (often referred to as PM2.5), which is a known carcinogen and can cause asthma, heart disease and other serious illnesses affecting our lungs, hearts and brains. Exposure to particulate air pollution can also trigger the symptoms of existing health conditions.

Current evidence suggests there is no safe level of PM2.5, and both short-term and long-term exposure to PM2.5 increase the risk of early deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases

How much air pollution does wood burning produce?

Nationally, domestic wood burning produces 38% of total fine particulate emissions despite only 7.5% of the population using these fuels for home heating. Domestic wood burning contributes 15% of total London-wide PM2.5 emissions, although the impact is concentrated during the autumn and winter.

PM2.5 from wood burning affects public health throughout Camden and can also have a serious impact on indoor air quality, damaging the health of those burning wood fuels at home. It has been estimated that around 4,100 premature deaths occur each year in London due to long-term exposure to air pollution.

Camden is very well connected to the mains gas network, and there is no reason for any resident or business in the borough to have to rely on wood or coal fuels for heating.

How can I reduce pollution from my wood burning stove or fireplace?

The most effective way of reducing pollution and protecting everyone’s health is simply to avoid burning any wood, coal, or other solid fuels at home.

Even the most efficient wood-fuelled heating systems emit approximately 300 times more PM2.5 than gas boilers, so if you are able to use gas or electricity for heating instead of wood or coal you will be helping to improve air quality.

We have produced a wood burning information flyer for you to share this information with others.

Advice on saving energy and keeping warm at home

If you struggle to keep your home warm and comfortable, you can contact the Green Camden Helpline on 0800 801 738 (Mon-Fri, 9am to 5pm) for advice and tips, including checking eligibility for grants and other services.

You can also visit our energy efficiency grants and services webpage for further information and support.

Related pages:

Wood burning stoves – the law

If you do burn wood or coal fuels you must comply with the Clean Air Act and smoke control regulations.

The whole of Camden is a smoke control area, and there are legal restrictions on the types of fuels and appliances which can be used. Only authorised ‘smokeless’ fuels and exempt appliances can legally be used. PM2.5 is not visible to the naked eye, so even ‘smokeless’ fuels and efficient appliances may still produce a significant amount of air pollution.

It is an offence to produce smoke from a chimney in a smoke control area. If you do, you may have to pay a penalty of £300, even if you burn authorised fuels or use an exempt appliance. If you burn unauthorised fuel in a non-exempt appliance you can be fined £1,000.

What can I burn in my fireplace or wood burning stove?

In open fireplaces and other non-exempt appliances you can only burn Defra-authorised ‘smokeless’ fuels. For a full list of authorised fuels please visit: Authorised fuels England - DEFRA.

Unauthorised fuels such as wood can only be burned in appliances approved by the Secretary of State, which are known as ‘exempt appliances’. A list of exempt appliances is available at: Exempt appliances - DEFRA.

Even if you are using approved fuels and exempt appliances, they still have a negative impact on air quality and public health and will produce indoor air pollution inside your home.

A recent study of indoor air quality in homes with Defra-exempt stoves found that indoor PM2.5 levels were three times higher on days when stoves were used compared to non-use days. PM2.5 is associated with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and there is no safe level of exposure according to the World Health Organization.

Regardless of whether you are complying with the Clean Air Act, if you burn wood or coal and cause a nuisance to other residents we may issue an abatement notice. Non-compliance with abatement notices can lead to fines and prosecution.

Installing a wood burning stove

If you plan to install a new wood burning stove or other wood or coal burning appliance you must comply with should register it with Camden Council:

Register your wood burning appliance by emailing: [email protected]

You should include the following information:

  • the address of where the appliance is located
  • the appliance make and model
  • evidence the appliance is certified as ‘exempt’
  • a description of fuel used including moisture content
  • name and address of fuel supplier
  • a plan showing the location of the appliance exhaust flue and the nearest building
  • evidence of planning permission if required and compliance with building regulations

If you are a leaseholder, you must contact your freeholder to seek permission before installing any new wood or coal burning appliance:

Contact Camden Leaseholder Services

Remember, even if your new appliance and fuel use complies with the smoke control requirements, you’re not exempt from nuisance legislation.