Tuesday 15 October 2019

Clean Air Day: Irish university professor says 'it’s almost an act of self-harm' to burn peat or smoky coal in your home

For cleaner air indoors, we should stop burning fossil fuels in homes, says Professor John Sodeau
For cleaner air indoors, we should stop burning fossil fuels in homes, says Professor John Sodeau
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Today is Clean Air Day, an awareness day which began two years ago when the Global Action Plan charity moved to highlight how air pollution is harmful to human health.

It's not just outdoor air pollution that is a major health concern, indoor air pollution is too, especially when homes are poorly ventilated and occupants are using solid fuels like wood and charcoal in cooking and heating.

“It’s not just one day, every day should be ‘clean air day’,” says Professor John Sodeau at University College Cork.

Prof Sodeau singles out burning fossil fuels, scented candles, and even toasting bread as ways that home owners are sending particulates into their home environment.

“Indoor air pollution is a subject that we know much less about [than outdoor air pollution]. But an obvious indoor pollutant is lighting those fires with peat or smoky coal, it’s almost an act of self-harm.”

“So one thing is to stop burning fuel in the homes, certainly in open fireplaces.”

However, he added: “The wood burning stoves that are thought to be clean... all that really happens is it goes up the chimney and goes into the neighbour’s house.”

Scented candles that are burned "are not good", he explained. "They release a number of compounds that are not good."

Having an indoor air monitor inside will provide an accurate analysis of what’s happening to your air quality at various times, he said.

“It’s not like being outdoors in New Delhi in India, but people see in a visual way that particulates are formed.”

"The dual problem of air pollution and climate change is based on carbon. If you keep carbon in the ground, you would have to be hopeful [about air quality].”

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