A famous TV doctor has raised the alarm over wood-burning stoves due to the lethal impacts the heating source can have on the health of children and adults. Dr Philippa Kaye, who is regularly seen on ITV’s Good Morning, told Express.co.uk in an exclusive interview that the harmful air pollution released from “toxic” wood-burning stoves is good reason to avoid buying one.
It comes after studies revealed that home burning of solid fuel (wood and coal) is now estimated to produce around 39 of the particle pollution (PM2.5) emitted in the UK, even more than that from road transport. This makes it the largest single source of PM2.5 pollution in the UK.
This type of pollution has been linked to a large number of health problems ranging from heart failure and lung problems to dementia and mental illness in children. Particle air pollution has also been linked with around 29,000 attributable deaths annually in Britain.
Dr Kaye told Express.co.uk: “Wood burning stoves can have a direct effect on the lungs of babies, children, adults, everybody. That is even worse if what you put in it is not properly treated wood.
“Having an occasional fire is one thing. But if it is your main source of heat energy and it is every day in the winter months, and during those winter months you also have your windows and doors shut because it’s cold and your house is not ventilated and you might have other issues like damp and mould which also have an impact on the lungs, the combination of things can be dangerous.
“We tend to think of pollution as something that is outside, but it can be something that is inside as well.”
And she warned that the younger you are, the greater the risk can be, particularly for babies.
Dr Kaye said: “It is something I would be considering when we think about babies in particular and how much they spend inside – what can you do to decrease risk? It could be looking at damp and mould, your wood-burning stove, all those things can affect the lungs.
“Babies’ airwaves are smaller, their immune systems are still developing and they spend a lot of time at home and sleeping. Babies and young children are most at risk, but then people at the other end of life are at risk too.
“Older people are more likely to have accumulated other lung conditions or maybe are already damaged from other things like smoking and their immune systems don’t work as well.”
The doctor added that there are certain things you can look out for as a parent to help you spot whether your child might be suffering the impacts of air pollution.
She said: “If babies are breathing much faster than usual or have more persistent coughs, or if your child’s allergies aren’t under control, if they have respiratory symptoms, you need to check them out.
“But aside from respiratory symptoms, children might also just not be thriving, so they might not be growing. They might be so generally unwell that there might be other things creeping in.”
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However, if you are not ready to throw out your wood-burning stove just yet during these cold winter months, there are precautionary steps you can take.
Dr Kaye said: “There are things you can do to mitigate the risk. You can sweep and clean your chimney. You need to be burning the right kind of fuel in your wood burner and having an air purifier can be useful.
“If you have an air purifier with a Hepa 13 filter in it, that will filter 99.92 percent of particles within the 0.1 to 0.15 microns range. Typical wood smoke particle size is 1 to 2.5 microns, so it will help. You can potentially consider using an air purifier that is ozone free as an ozone-emitting purifier can still damage the lungs of babies children and adults.
“You must also make sure your home is appropriately ventilated to try and prevent issues like mould and that you do open your windows and get some outside air in.“
However, she added: “But having a wood burning stove is a potential risk for health. I would say from a health standpoint and an environmental standpoint not to have a wood burner”.
The trained GP also warned that while you may be tempted to put the fire on to limit your heating costs during a time of record high energy bills, they are not necessarily going to provide that much heat.
Dr Kaye said: “Wood-burning stoves are not necessarily efficient. They can save money once installed, but you won’t necessarily heat your whole house. I don’t think there is any cheap way of heating.”
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