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Domestic Wood Burning Leads To “Very High Pollution Alert” For London

January 24, 2017

By Paul Homewood


h/t Ian




From the BBC:


A "very high" air pollution warning has been issued for London for the first time under a new alert system.

Warnings are being issued at bus stops, roadside signs and Tube stations under the new system set up by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The rise has been attributed to cold, calm and settled weather, meaning winds are not dispersing local pollutants.

The mayor said "the shameful state of London’s toxic air" meant he had to trigger the alert.

"This is the highest level of alert and everyone – from the most vulnerable to the physically fit – may need to take precautions to protect themselves from the filthy air," he said.

A spike in pollution on Sunday was the highest level recorded since April 2011……

The last time pollution reached this level was early last month, according to pollution monitoring stations run by King’s College London.

However, a spike in pollution levels on Sunday "when there wasn’t much traffic on the road, was significant" Dr Fuller said.

In recent weeks several "high" alerts have been issued.

The current weather conditions, coupled with an "unusually high amount of domestic wood burning", has led to the highest pollution alert being issued.


I was too young to remember the great London smogs of the 1950s, but they led to Clean Air Acts, which amongst other things introduced smokeless zones where only certain types of coal could be burnt.

Unfortunately because of our obsession with “clean” renewable energy, we appear to be going backwards again.

  1. AndyG55 permalink
    January 24, 2017 11:01 am

    Wood smoke is cure by CHEAP, RELIABLE electricity.

    If you DELIBERATELY push the price of electricity up by applying huge subsidies to unreliable electricity supply systems and forcing suppliers that rely on 24/7 operation out of the market…

    …. then OF COURSE people will start to burn wood for heating instead.

    I mean… DOH !!!!!

    • January 24, 2017 2:27 pm

      Agreed 100x’s over. I now burn “eco-bricks” (compressed sawdust bricks) and some wood much of the day. That’s in part because it’s warmer and in part because propane, which I use at night and some of the day, was outrageously expensive ($4 per gallon one year). I hadn’t used the wood stove in years, but constant battling with poor service, over-pricing, etc lead me to use the wood stove again. I was happy with propane, but I’m not happy fighting for decent service and realistic costs. Wood and these “bricks” are much cheaper. The bricks are less than $2 a day and the wood is free. If propane were not so overpriced, I’d go back to it in a heartbeat. Lousy, forced services push people into other options.

    • Andy DC permalink
      January 25, 2017 2:00 am

      The unintended consequences of trying too hard to save the planet, namely trying to repeat the great killer London Fog of 1953?

  2. John Smith permalink
    January 24, 2017 11:10 am

    One of the daftest things about wood burning stoves used in urban areas is probably the approval system which allows stoves that meet certain standards to be installed in cities, but once installed, then anything can be burned in them. I have head that the same problems exist in Paris. I use a wood burner and would not be without it, but I live on the Scottish coast so don’t need to worry much about the smoke.

    • January 24, 2017 12:49 pm

      It must feel great not to have to pay “green” taxes on your heating, but nobody can escape them entirely, they contribute to the price paid for everything. St. Andrews Uni has just got its wood burning water heater going, free heating for the lucky few, paid for by guess who.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      January 24, 2017 5:26 pm

      A lot of wood is used across France for domestic heating, even in rural areas on still cold days there is a haze of wood smoke. When cycling through any small hamlets here in Limousin on still days in winter you can smell the wood smoke. Much less frequently can smell diesel fumes.

  3. Derek Buxton permalink
    January 24, 2017 11:25 am

    I can certainly remember the thick fogs and then we got the Clean Air Act. Incidently I lived amidst the smoke and fumes of the major steel works, now no longer in existence. Over a period of time fog became a thing of the past. I am surprised that wood burning is permitted, not only does it emit CO2 but other pollutants as I know that brick chimneys have a steel insert put in. Still, I am 83, so it cannot have been too bad!

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 24, 2017 1:43 pm

      Brick chimneys don’t all have liners. Mine doesn’t and on inspection I was told it wasn’t needed. A lot of stove installers do put one in at the same time.

  4. January 24, 2017 11:40 am

    I lived near Sheffield in the 50s, actually in Derbyshire on the edge of the Park District. We could look down across Sheffield and see nothing but smog. It is much better now, partly because of the introduction of smokeless fuels and partly because all the industry has gone.

    I’m not surprised at the smog from wood burning stoves. My stove is going full bore this morning and one can see slight traces of smoke going straight up from the top of the chimney (as there is absolutely no air movement) and disappearing. However, from the top of the field 200m away the smoke can be smelt quite easily. I only burn pure wood, not the treated wood and other things that people burn in cities like London. Hence I only produce a little pollution which affects nobody else, plus all that lovely plant food, CO2.

  5. Ex-expat Colin permalink
    January 24, 2017 11:50 am

    I remember smog well in S.E London some 4 miles from the Thames (crow fly)…1950’s. We had to use coal/coke because gas lines were not installed. Electricity was Battersea Power St no doubt. Don’t remember electric heating as all houses were fireplaces. I note now that a lot of homes in that area (now Greenwich) are using wood burners which is not allowed as far as I know. Smokeless zones I think. Those same houses have gas supplies. Fact is there are too many people living/working in London and rising, but that is something well ignored.

    • Ex-expat Colin permalink
      January 24, 2017 12:14 pm

      oh..explanation of exempt (allowed) burning devices in this article:

    • A C Osborn permalink
      January 24, 2017 12:50 pm

      Ex-expat Colin, I lived very close to you, just down the road at Erith in Kent, about a mile from the Thames.
      I remember the Smogs very well and not being able to see much more than an arms length in front of you.
      I also remember the introdcution of Coke, it was actually better than coal.

      • m e emberson permalink
        January 25, 2017 3:01 am

        What happened to coke ? Is it now banned? Remembering the peasoupers when office fires in the city were often coal. We had gas fires..very warm and not draughty like open fires. But it was coal gas of course.

  6. Peter MacFarlane permalink
    January 24, 2017 12:24 pm

    There’s probably a covert war against wood-burners going on anyway, because unlike electricity and gas they cannot be centrally controlled. A populace that can keep warm and continue to heat water/cook food despite the worst efforts of the State, is less easily cowed.


  7. stewgreen permalink
    January 24, 2017 1:21 pm

    Over on BH I have been following this London Pollution alert thing ever since Doctors Against Diesel suddenly popped up and I asked myself if it was PR (for Electric cars) not news ?
    Jonathan Grigg the founded of the moniker popped up, but has not answered our questions.

    Last night I wrote
    OK Dr Jonathan Grigg was just on R5 Live about Sadiq’s pollution alert
    Two things struck me.
    – He ended by saying “Diesel is the low hanging fruit we have to get rid of it its fumes are toxic
    Toxic ..That seems hyperbolic, cos diesel is ubiquitous and the vast majority of people lve long lives with no obvious notice of “diesel fume” damage.
    – Secondly he did not use the Doctors against Diesel moniker.

    Just slightly before him they had proof in terms of a victim a 34 year old regular cyclist
    “I went to see a special and he said ‘You’ve got asthma welcome to London’ matter of factly” more of my post

  8. richard verney permalink
    January 24, 2017 1:21 pm

    I have a built in wood stove; it is Dutch and it meant to be efficient and has a couple of fans to circulate the warm air. When first lit, you can certainly see smoke from the chimney, but when fully warm, after about 30 to 40 minutes, there is little smoke to be seen.

    Wood is very expensive, especially if bought in small quantities as must be the case for those living in central London. I do not think that it is being used in London as a cheap option; in rural areas it may be different.

    Fortunately, I get my wood for free (from the garden) but I never have time to let it dry properly. I scavage it in Spring/Summer and at most it has about 6 months to dry, but probably more like 4 months during late summer/autumn. I never get ahead of the game, since it amazes me how much wood you have to burn each day.

    It is the ambience of a real fire that I think appeals.

  9. Gerry, England permalink
    January 24, 2017 1:49 pm

    I burn wood and coal on my open fire. A stove is planned for the end of Spring – whenever that arrives this year as I can see a period of CH off but fire needed. This should improve the efficiency over the open fire. I use it to keep the heat up when the CH goes off and at times when I don’t want to put the CH on especially living alone. Was a savior when the gas main got flooded. Most of my neighbours have stoves or fires. In the nearby village you can often smell the coal fires.

    As to the resulting smog? Just another illustration of how dim our politicians and I presume their advisors are if they didn’t see it coming. Just like the felling of mature woods and fraud in Europe seeking subsidies.

  10. January 24, 2017 2:56 pm

    One line in your article caught my attention:

    The current weather conditions, coupled with an “unusually high amount of domestic wood burning”, has led to the highest pollution alert being issued.

    Although I don’t live in the U.K. I suspect there is very little domestic wood burning in the U.K. But there has been a large increase in commercial wood burning in the U.K. recently. So are there pollution controls imposed on the commercial wood burners or has the environmental masters given them a free ride?

  11. January 24, 2017 4:03 pm

    The Labour Government (the curse of Blair) encouraged motoring manufacturers to increase the amount of diesel cars by lowering the tax. This crazy argument was formulated by trying to cut CO2 levels, but instead a toxic mixture of gases were produced, especially in the cities with buses, diesel taxis, and more diesel domestic cars. When politicians try to involve themselves with scientific or technical issues they are lost through a fog of lobbyists with their own agenda to promote. I have been driving for over 50 years, but have never had a diesel car, it just didn’t make sense when I noticed even new cars produced dirty exhaust gases. Lead free petrol is far cleaner compared to diesel, so until they invent a car to run on water, petrol will do for me.

    • Paul Hughes permalink
      January 24, 2017 4:14 pm

      Couldn’t agree more. Diesel has always struck me as a filthy fuel. Fine for ships miles from land, but not for thousands of vehicles in crowded cities. The demonisation of CO2 has a lot to answer for.

  12. January 24, 2017 4:27 pm

    I very much remember the smogs in the Black Country as a boy and in Liverpool as a student. I suspect the pollution levels have not reached the 1950s levels. My new book is all about the filthy rivers of that age and how clean they are today…because of pollution havens and the emigration of our heavy industries.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      January 26, 2017 9:07 am

      Yes – I remember having to drive a girlfriend home from central Manchester in one of the last pea-soupers in the 50’s. Visibility so bad that the only way to drive was to follow the curb – giving real directional problems at junctions! On dirty rivers – look at page “Folk Off No 4” on my blog at for a funny view.

      • January 26, 2017 12:45 pm

        Russ, certainly also remember having to keep my foot on the kerb as I rode my Lambretta from Liverpool University to my digs in Fazakerly because the fog was so thick. Arriving at digs one night , my friend and my landlord fell about laughing as my face was streaked with black lines from deposited smog particles. One night, on the way to a winter beach party on the Lamby , it was so thick that I ended up in someones drive facing the garage door. Those were the days. Lovely. At home in the Black Country, we used to earn threepence a time from lorry drivers for leading them around the Ocker Hill roundabout with a torch. Talk about entrepreneurs. Its an ill wind…….

  13. Svend Ferdinandsen permalink
    January 24, 2017 6:17 pm

    I wonder if it is an organised campaign against woodburning.
    In the resent week there has ben debates in about the same issue.
    The worst is the lack of facts, and the extended use of half through statements.
    The concept of statistical live (early death) is called a cost to society, when it is really the societys willingnes to pay for prevention. (if the prevention would work).

  14. January 24, 2017 6:30 pm

    This morning: Dealing a blow to former President Barack Obama’s legacy on climate change, President Donald Trump signed executive actions Tuesday to advance the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, a move cheered by congressional Republicans and decried by environmentalists.

  15. Bitter&twisted permalink
    January 24, 2017 7:44 pm

    This “filthy air” is a direct result of “green” lifestyles slavishly followed by what Delipole calls the “wankerarti”.

  16. January 24, 2017 8:44 pm

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Choking on greencrap – ‘unintended consequences’ indeed.

  17. john cooknell permalink
    January 24, 2017 9:00 pm

    Smog and Fog can often lead to a lowering of the day time recorded surface temperature in Winter. My hypothesis is that the historical temperature record in UK is “polluted” by the effects of historical fogs and smog in Winter. The number of “fog days” has greatly decreased over time. As far as I am aware no attempt to “correct” the temperature record for the decrease in fog days.

    Mortality data issued by ONS, show that your life expectancy, if you live in the highest air polluted area of London and South East, you should expect to live longer than any other part of the UK. So perhaps air pollution is important, but not that important.

  18. Ross King permalink
    January 24, 2017 9:02 pm

    Heat, warmth & shelter are fundamental ‘base-needs’ (read Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs).
    Just as the starving will toss governments out (accompnaied by French-style rioting), so will those freezing to death ‘cos electricity has been priced beyond their reach by the sinecured Ivory-Tower academics and their grasping sycophants looking to make fortunes off gov’t subsidies for boondoggle schemes, whose prescriptives bear no relation to the needs of the average voter.
    If I were back in U.K., I’d be harvesting firewood as fast as I could. Nota bene that that is what most 3rd. world people do … scavenge for firewood … and it demands a large proportion of their daily lives. Is this where we’re headed? The morons who have co-opted power-supply strategy and politics (just to make certain they are on the invitation list to Davos??) are being exposed for what they are: out-of-touch with their electorate; fooled & bamboozled by the Alarmists into bizarre “Good-Optics” meddling with base-power production, and with their heads stuck in the clouds.

  19. PGBerkin permalink
    January 24, 2017 9:10 pm

    I believe that there is a great deal of scrap wood being burnt in London – on cold nights I can clearly smell that distinct building-site-bonfire smell, as paint and Lord knows what go up in smoke, dioxins and all. Thank you, Green Blob.

  20. January 25, 2017 2:32 am

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    Another great example of how draconian climate policy, leading to “fuel poverty”, forces people to burn wood to stay warm, causing real damage to the environment and air quality.

    “Energiewende” forced German’s to steal wood from forests to stay warm back in 2013:

    Ideologically and politically driven climate policy – killing the Earth to save it.

  21. John F. Hultquist permalink
    January 25, 2017 6:05 am

    In Washington State there are regulations to improve air quality and some of these involve wood stoves. New “EPA-certified” units are replacing old wood-burning designs. During High Pressure, or other air-pollution alerts, using wood can be a no-no unless the home has no other source of heat.
    Certified stoves mostly have catalytic burners. These do require the use of seasoned wood. Other materials (wood with paint or glues, other stuff) can harm the honeycomb shaped catalytic unit.
    The State often has money and actions to help replace old stoves with new ones. We took a 1980’s model to a State-sponsored stove turn-in event along with 249 other folks. Each old stove earned a $250 reward. Then they were crushed and the metal recycled. Such programs could be funded more if the State budget allows.
    The new stoves are costly, so the “reward” just about covers the tax on a new one.
    Here is the concept:

    There are numerous makers, this one is highly regarded and pricey:

    PS: The number of people with asthma has been rising in recent years, but researchers aren’t sure why. This makes air pollution an emotional issue even when it is not much of a physical issue for many people.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 25, 2017 2:00 pm

      Re – asthama: except to show that rising levels of asthma have little to do with pollution as the air has been getting cleaner.

    • January 25, 2017 6:26 pm

      Assuming that asthma is caused by outdoor air pollution and not the oversealed homes people live in, the constant chemicals people love to spray to “eliminate odors” and the excessive perfuming of every single item any human buys for use, including lip balm.

  22. Athelstan permalink
    January 25, 2017 8:03 am

    Inner city air pollution is now with us again – did it ever truly go away, when man desires to live together in mass numbers – what else?

    Air quality has been reduced in UK towns, mainly due to the laws of unintended consequences though not exclusively, true. NO, NO2 and particulates are evil, deadly for some and always smelled though mainly unseen, wood is a problem but a minor one by comparison – I await the incoming for making such a statement!

    Walk around Islington in the Autumn, smell the burning trees! Yup, the green nutters want posh folk to burn wood for some arcane thinking which escapes me.

    I vividly recall how coke was such a clean burn but then used to also think of the process of burning coal to produce coke and think, hmm well, the shit emits still somewhere and phenol’s, sulphides, ammonia besides.

    Methane, Gas was the best way to heat a home, safety considerations apart……………… I still can’t think of a more preferable method – can you?

    When we are all forced to go electric, now what happens with all those ‘green’ wood burners?

    More to the point, as the tory-westminster-Brussels-Berlin axis demands it by 2050 or so “when we all go electric” only the like of Gina Miller, the members of the supreme court, Richard loud gob Virgin and the north London public sector aristocracy will be able to afford it and as for the rest of the proles…………….. a trip to the Kashmir will give you a very sharp idea of how it will be for the peasants.

  23. Svend Ferdinandsen permalink
    January 25, 2017 7:07 pm

    I have heard that it is forbidden to have real wood burning stoves in London. The stoves are most likely gas fired or even fired by electricity..
    Could anyone tell if that is right or wrong.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      January 25, 2017 9:16 pm


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