GROWING CONCERN: Wood heater smoke was found to be the biggest contributor to air pollution.
GROWING CONCERN: Wood heater smoke was found to be the biggest contributor to air pollution.

The toxic effect wood-fired heaters are having on our health

AS TEMPERATURES around the region begin to plummet, health concerns have quickly grown with wood smoke responsible for the majority of breaches to air quality standards.

Wood heater smoke is generated from both open fireplaces and wood-fired heaters discharging emissions through a metal pipe called a flue or a chimney.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics wood heater smoke was found to be the single biggest air pollutant with about 10 per cent of Australian households - roughly 900,000 homes - using wood as their main source of heating.

Sugarloaf rural fire brigade first officer James Massey said it was a concern that could be easily avoided by choosing their wood carefully.

"People need to be aware of the timber they are burning," Mr Massey said.

"If you have a perfectly good tree that has been killed that means that tree has not died naturally - this is the timber that is most concerning.

"Most times that tree does not burn well because it's been killed opposed to a tree that has died naturally."

He said while it might seem like a minor difference, the impact was drastic.

"There are toxins in that smoke," he said.

"People need to make sure if they are using a wood heater they get their timber from a reputable supplier."

Australia's wood-fired heaters are estimated to cause health costs of about $3800 per wood heater each year.

Given the roughly 900,000 wood heaters used as primary household heating sources in Australia, this could be as high as $3.4 billion annually across the country.

Mr Massey said while it was cold outside and people were trying to keep warmth trapped in the house, ventilation was a necessity.

"Most people lock up the house like a safe," he said.

"But it is really important that you have that fresh air flowing through your house."