Asthma Australia calls for a ban on wood stoves

One group is calling for the phasing out of an Australian winter favorite that claims to have serious adverse health effects.

As Australians return in the winter, a group is calling for a ban on one of the most popular forms of heating.

Michele Goldman, managing director of Asthma Australia, said wood heaters could impact asthma sufferers to the point of requiring hospitalization and should be phased out.

“We continually get calls during the winter months from people who are frustrated, feeling helpless, angry, because neighboring houses are burning their wood stoves,” Ms. Goldman told 3AW.

“The smoke gets into their own homes – so it’s not even just about not being able to walk down the street – and causes asthma symptoms, then you have flare-ups and trips to the hospital.”

While the effects may not always be visible, Goldman said wood heaters were the biggest contributors to reduced particle pollution during the winter months, despite only being used by a limited number of people.

Only 4.4% of Sydney residents burn wood to heat their homes, according to Asthma Australia

About one in nine people in Australia suffer from asthma and wood fire smoke which can also affect people with other respiratory conditions or chronic conditions, as well as children and the elderly.

Ms. Goldman said wood heaters could be phased out by banning them from new construction in denser urban areas in favor of “cleaner and safer alternatives.”

A subsidy already exists in Victoria, offering low-income families $ 1000 to replace their old heaters with energy-efficient reverse cycle systems.

“Nobody should be left in a situation where they can’t heat their home, but reverse-cycle air conditioning is cheaper, it’s more environmentally friendly, and it’s a healthier option,” Goldman said.

A study conducted last year by Asthma Australia found that most Australians would support regulations to phase out wood-burning heaters.

Over three quarters of respondents, or 77%, agreed that wood stoves should not be allowed in urban or built-up areas.

Originally published as Asthma Australia calls for a ban on wood stoves