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Truth Behind the Headlines: Wood burners triple harmful indoor air pollution, study finds

News reports claim that wood burners triple the level of harmful pollution particles inside homes and should be sold with a health warning. They state that tiny particles “flood” into the room when the burner doors are opened for refuelling.


They also claim that during this process the pollution levels rise above World Health Organization limits putting people’s health at risk.  

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 study Indoor Air Pollution from Residential Stoves: Examining the Flooding of Particulate Matter into Homes during Real-World Use published in the journal Atmosphere. 

2. Who is behind the study it refers to?

The study was completed at the University of Sheffield.  

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

The study asked participants to complete a research diary in order to provide information on time lit, amount and type of fuel used, and duration of use, among other details. While particulate matter sensors were placed in the vicinity of the stove to record pollution levels. 


The researchers used statistical analysis to understand the relationship between the practices and pollution levels. 


Their results showed that hourly peak averages are higher for PM2.5 by 123.91% in homes using a stove compared to those not. This is the ‘flood’ effect described in the press.  


The results also demonstrate that PM2.5 levels rise to as high as 195.83μ g/m3 – considerably higher that World Health Organisation limits (25μg/m3 over 24 hours) – this claim is also accurate. 

4. What geographical region does the claim refer to?

The study was completed in Sheffield, UK but researchers suggest the results are applicable across the country.  

5. What is the sample size of the study?

The research was conducted over a month in 19 homes in Sheffield at the start of 2020. In total it assessed 260 uses of wood burners.  

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