The chilly nights and frosty days are a reminder that winter is just around the corner, and it is time for us to consider how we are to heat our houses in the coming months.
One way people choose is the cosy warmth of a wood-fired heater. Many of us prefer the special atmosphere provided by a cheerful blaze in the dark winter months. However, with the warmth comes the responsibility of making sure your heater is working properly, and is not the cause of pollution.
Harmful smoke generally comes from poorly operated, wood burning heaters. According to the Environmental Protection Agency wood smoke contains a variety of harmful chemicals, including fine particles, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons, benzene, xylene and formaldehyde.
The EPA says up to 85 per cent of winter fine particle pollution comes from wood heaters in some areas of NSW. Orange could be in this category.
Wood-fired heaters are more common in places like Orange, which have long, cold winters, requiring households to use heating which is used for several months. This makes Orange more susceptible to the harmful effects of wood smoke if those who use wood-fired heating don't operate their heaters properly.
Fine particle pollution such as is derived from wood smoke accounts for 3000 deaths per year. Most affected are infants and young children, people suffering from respiratory and heart complaints and the frail and elderly. It must be stressed, however, that wood smoke pollution is bad for everyone.
Previously there has not been the means to assess local air pollution levels, whether they are higher during the winter months, and the seriousness of the levels. This year Orange City Council has acquired resources to test the levels of air pollution in our atmosphere.
This will provide a baseline level of pollution and information about whether there is a serious rise in air pollution levels over winter. Having the means to monitor pollution levels also allows council to evaluate the effectiveness of any strategies implemented to reduce pollution in our atmosphere.
Meanwhile, if you operate a wood-fired heater, make sure you observe the rules for reducing the amount of smoke it emits and protect yourself and your neighbours.