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Armidale Dumaresq Council

Air Quality and Woodsmoke

Is wood smoke really dangerous?

A solid body of scientific evidence has confirmed that wood smoke is bad for our health – on a lot of measures it’s more dangerous than traffic exhaust. Smoke from wood heaters has a lot in common with tobacco smoke. Because wood and tobacco are both organic fuels, when they burn they give off a very similar compounds. Particulate matter, especially those particles known as PM2.5, are the most worrying.   

Children and the elderly are most at risk from PM2.5. These particles lodge in the lungs and can trigger or worsen respiratory illnesses like asthma, pneumonia and middle ear infections. Because they can also enter the bloodstream, PM2.5 particles can raise blood pressure and cause inflammation, increasing overall risks of cardiovascular disease. Numerous studies have shown that higher levels of wood smoke and PM2.5 result in higher hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular problems, particularly amongst children and the elderly. 

It’s important we share the truth about wood smoke. The more aware people are of the dangers, the more likely they are to act. Yes, wood smoke is natural, but so are bush fires and snake bites – and we’re careful to avoid those.  

We’re too small to be the Big Smoke

Unfortunately, Armidale’s air quality is affected by our climate and location. Because of the cold winters, thousands of homes burn wood for heating. And because of the valley that we live in, combined with low winds, wood smoke gets trapped over the town.

The good news is that we can fix the problem – if we all work together. When operated properly, the vast majority of wood heaters will burn without smoking excessively. Laboratory tests by experts have shown that operating a wood stove properly, burning a hot fire with dry wood, can reduce smoke levels by up to 90%.

What’s being done to fix the problem?

A lot. With help from NSW EPA, Armidale Dumaresq Council is this winter conducting an innovative educational campaign combined with smoke patrols and an incentives program for people who want to replace their wood heater with an approved alternative form of heating. 

We’re serious about improving Armidale’s air quality and we believe that with hard work and your help we really can make a difference. 

Reduce your chimney smoke right now

This 3 ½ minute video will show you how to operate your wood heater in a way that dramatically reduces smoke. 



Looking for a rebate?

If you’re considering replacing your wood heater with an approved alternative, read more here: Home Heating Rebate

Love to read? 

Council has a formal policy that lays out our long-term goals for air quality. You can read that here: POL134 -  Policy for Sustainable Domestic Energy Use and Local Air Quality (incorporating Local Approvals Policy for Solid Fuel Heaters) (DOC 166.5 KB)

More information