Michael Gove wants clampdown on coal fires and smoky stoves

 
Sales of coal as a household fuel could be banned under government plans to reduce air pollution from open fires and stoves.
 
Restrictions could also be imposed on the burning of wet wood and councils will be given stronger powers to act against people who flout rules in smoke control areas.
 
Michael Gove, environment secretary, is targeting home fires because they are the single largest source of particulates that contribute to lung and heart disease, causing 29,000 early deaths a year.
 
About 40 per cent of particulates in 2015 came from burning coal and wood in homes, more than double the proportion from diesel cars. A wood-burning stove can produce more particulates than an HGV.
 
The stoves are increasingly popular in middle-class homes and hotels, with 1.5 million already fitted in Britain and 200,000 sold annually. Old fireplaces have also been opened up in many houses and can cause greater pollution than stoves.
 
During a smog episode in London last January, half the toxic emissions in some areas came from domestic wood burning.
 
Mr Gove will call for evidence today on the use of house coal, smokeless coal, manufactured solid fuels and wood used for heating. He is considering banning the sale of house coal and only allowing low-sulphur smokeless alternatives.

Smokeless coal tends to be more expensive but sellers of some varieties claim they have a higher heat output than traditional coal.
 
He may also encourage people to burn only dried wood. This would either be seasoned wood, left for up to two years to dry naturally, or dried in a kiln.
 
Newly felled wood has a high moisture content, makes a lot of smoke and has more than double the emissions of seasoned or kiln-dried wood.
 
Many people buy wet wood in bulk and dry it themselves before burning, and Mr Gove is keen not to penalise them.
 
Stricter sulphur limits are also being considered for all smokeless solid fuels.
 
Mr Gove will reject demands for wood-burning stoves to be banned. This is partly a response to a plea from Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of
London, for powers to prohibit all wood burning in areas of poor air quality.
 
The call for evidence is expected to say: “Many homes have installed wood-burning stoves, and we are not seeking to prevent their use or installation.”
 
He is publishing it on the day Britain and eight other EU member states tell the European Commission why they continue to breach air quality rules.
 
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “The concern is that burning wet wood could emit a cocktail of noxious gasses and toxic wood smoke particles. The particles are so tiny that they can get deep into our lungs and increase the risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. We urgently need the government to publish an ambitious clean-air strategy that looks at all sources of air pollution and protects the nation’s health.”
 
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