Asthma Australia calls for ban on wood fire heaters

One group is calling for a phasing out of an Australian winter favourite that it says has serious adverse health effects.

As Australians head back into winter, one group is calling for a ban on one of the most beloved form of heating.

Asthma Australia chief executive Michele Goldman said wood fire heaters could impact asthma sufferers to the point they required hospitalisation and should gradually be phased out.

“We have calls all the time during the winter months from people who are frustrated, feeling helpless, angry, because neighbouring homes are burning their wood heaters,” Ms Goldman told 3AW.

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

While the effects may not always be visible, Ms Goldman said wood fire heaters were the largest contributor to small particulate pollution during the winter months – despite only being used by a small number of people.

Just 4.4 per cent of Sydneysiders burn wood to warm their homes, according to Asthma Australia

Around one in nine people in Australia have asthma and smoke from wood fires that can also affect people with other respiratory conditions or chronic conditions as well as children and the elderly.

Ms Goldman said wood fire heaters could be phased out by banning them from new builds in more dense urban areas in favour of “cleaner, safer alternatives”.

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

“No one needs to be left in a situation where they can’t heat their home, but reverse cycle airconditioning is cheaper, it’s more environmentally friendly and it’s a healthier option,” Ms Goldman said.

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

Over three-quarters of those surveyed, or 77 per cent, agreed that wood fire heaters should not be allowed in urban or built-up areas.

Originally published as Asthma Australia calls for ban on wood fire heaters