Australia setting the standard with Air Quality?

I read the latest Purple Air story regarding the breakthroughs made with air quality in Australia over the past few decades and struggle to swallow it.
I live in Bunbury WA and that story couldn’t be further from our reality.
Wood heating is out of control here. 4/5 homes here use wood heaters. There was actually a slow reduction in them until the past 2 or 3 years. Now it’s gone crazy! Everyone is going back to them. They are telling everyone just how fantastic these things are. We’ve had 5 installed within 50 metres of our property in the past 3 years. It’s an urban area that is becoming more and more densely populated as time goes on. Their are infill developments continually happening in the areas surrounding us too. The number of additional wood heaters constantly appearing makes me shudder. Our situation is already severe. And it’s only going to get a lot worse. We have a Purple Air sensor outside and I monitor the indoors with an Atmotube Pro. Well the sensors just confirm what we’re noticing. The air is toxic. It’s getting into our home. You can’t stop it. It impacts your life so much. Clean burn?? These are all new model wood heaters that we have surrounding us. Well the stink is hard to bear. You can feel it tearing at your throat when you breathe. What a lot of nonsense. People leave their wood in the rain. So do the wood suppliers. Do you think that they’re careful to ensure fire is kept bright with sufficient air? It’s more like load it up and close it down. The right to decent breathable air doesn’t happen in Australia! Try challenging it and see where you get. You get fobbed off, ignored and directed to the official readings that magically produce figures that I dream of. Australia is setting the standard??

One problem seems to be misleading advertising from the wood heating industry. An article published this week in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) argues that the health problems are so bad that no new wood heaters should be permitted and existing ones phased out.

Here’s a link to the cover of the issue: MJA e-Journal Volume 220 Issue 1, 15 Jan 2024 | The Medical Journal of Australia
This insight+ article summarizes the research and has a link to the research paper:
You might also be interested in this post in the FB group ‘My air quality Australia’: My Air Quality Australia | I’m looking to start a wood heater class action group | Facebook

Although I live in the US, I am interested in this as similar discussions have occurred here. But, there is also a flip side. I live in the very rural mountains of Vermont, an area which is also very poor and generally very cold in winter. The only heat people can reliably afford is wood, often harvesting it on their own. What should they do?

I own a new wood stove with a catalytic combustor. I can say for sure that when run correctly as monitored with our puepleair sensor, the air quality is generally the same as the ambient quality for the larger area, which generally is good.

Running the stove correctly, however, is not straight forward. This is certainly a place where the designers of these stoves and furnaces could take more care.

We rely on this form of heating as our main source and, as with many, I harvest and process the wood myself, including splitting 5 or 6 cords by hand every season. The annual cost is the price of chainsaw fuel, which is very small and a small amount of diesel, ~10-15gal, if that much, to haul it out. So for a few dollars a season, I can heat more or less indendently. Filling up a 275gal oil tank every 6-8weeks would be prohibitive for us. We have installed heat pumps, including for hot water, but they are also very expensive to run, especially in comparison to our wood stove (we also once had an indoor wood boiler which was very efficient, but did require some knowhow to operate correctly).

I can appreciate your point in an urban environment, especially as an asthmatic who suffers greatly from poor quality air (e.g. from the smoke from the Canadian wildfires). But, overall, it seems that the problem is not one that can be solved with a broad sweep of the brush.

Hi Andre,

Thank you very much for your comments! While Australia’s air quality in general is leading the way and setting a standard for the rest of the world to follow, there are also areas like Bunbury where the air quality is poor either due to geography, local pollution sources like industry or wood-burning, or a variety and combination of other issues.

We would like to add a section to our blog based on this feedback to highlight some issues that the community faces.

Other than the information you shared in the original post, is there any additional info or context that you think will be beneficial for the blog and it’s readers?