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Truth Behind the Headlines: The public are unaware of the health impacts of indoor fires

The media, and most recently the BBC, have reported that the recent reduction in outdoor air pollution has been coupled with a dramatic rise in indoor air pollution during lockdown. This is particularly concerning because many people are spending more time at home than normal because of the pandemic.


Analyses of air quality data collected in homes around the world indicated that levels of certain pollutants had increased. Carbon dioxide and airborne particles called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were reported to have increased by up to 30% in homes across several European countries. Furthermore, a second study found that found levels of VOCs and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) had risen during lockdown in homes where the monitoring took place.

Using our recommended five tips, Global Action Plan reviewed the study:


Questions to ask to get to the truth Our response
1. Does the article refer to a report to back up its claims?

The article refers to the results of a survey which has not been made publicly available.

2. Who is behind the study it refers to?

The survey was carried out as part of the Burn Better campaign, which is supported by the UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The survey was conducted by Censuswide an international market research consultancy.  

3. How fantastical and radical is the claim that is being made?

The claims were made based on a survey carried out as part of DEFRA’s ‘Burn Better’ campaign which aims to raise people’s awareness that the fuel and appliance they use may have potential impacts on health and the environment.


The research also found that nearly one in five (19 %) people surveyed (wrongly) believe that wood burners and coal fires are the most environmentally friendly ways of heating their home. Domestic burning is actually a major source of air pollution because it produces harmful fine particulate matter (PM2.5) such as smoke, ash and grit which has been associated with a range of human health conditions.

4. What geographical region does the claim refer to?

The UK

5. What is the sample size of the study?

The survey was completed by over 2,000 stove users.


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