The government has taken bold action to stop household pollution by making it illegal to burn wet wood or sell certain fuels. In an effort to cut down carbon emissions and improve air quality, the sale of unseasoned wood or high sulphur fuels will be phased out over the next two years. It’s estimated that this will affect some 2.5 million homes and businesses in the UK.

Although individuals and small businesses who rely on wood burners for heat and atmosphere may feel singled out by this legislation, wood burning stoves are the main causes of a pollutant called PM2.5, which has been singled out by the World Health Organisation for its negative effect on the lungs, heart and blood system.

Why are wood burners bad for our health?

Wood and coal burning accounts for 40% of harmful UK levels of background PM2.5, twice as much PM2.5 as comes from road traffic or big industry. Research has shown that toxic PM2.5 can enter the bloodstream and damage the heart and circulatory system.

As well as the health benefits that this legislation will bring, the permitted fuels will be cheaper and more efficient to burn, therefore saving the public money in the long run.

What exactly are the new regulations and when will they come into effect?

Selling bagged traditional house coal and wet wood in units under 2m3 will be phased out by February 2021. At the same time limits will be placed on the sale of manufactured solid fuels for domestic combustion. Only fuels with a low sulphur content and less smoke will be permitted for sale.

The next steps will be to phase out the sale of loose coal direct to customers via approved coal merchants by February 2023, so that the public can switch to cleaner fuel alternatives. Those alternatives include dry wood and manufactured solid fuels for stoves and open fires at home.

Environment Secretary George Eustice, said: “Cosy open fires and wood-burning stoves are at the heart of many homes up and down the country, but the use of certain fuels means that they are also the biggest source of the most harmful pollutant that is affecting people in the UK. By moving towards the use of cleaner fuels such as dry wood we can all play a part in improving the health of millions of people.”

He continued: “This is the latest step in delivering on the challenge we set ourselves in our world-leading Clean Air Strategy. We will continue to be ambitious and innovative in tackling air pollution from all sources as we work towards our goal to halve the harm to human health from air pollution by 2030.”

Logs and firewood