What is 'wet wood' and why does the Welsh Government want to ban it in homes?

  • ITV Wales Rural Affairs Correspondent Hannah Thomas reports from Tongwynlais

Concerns have been raised over the impact wood burners are having on clean air, particularly in urban areas.

Log burners have become increasing popular, with the number of households who have them doubling in the last decade.

But the Welsh Government wants to ban certain types of fuels for the home-heating devices because it says they are particularly bad for the environment - and for us.

Tongwynlais cafe owner Dave Vater relies entirely on log burners to heat his business because the property is off-grid.

Log burners have become increasing popular, with the number of households who have them doubling in the last decade.

"The building's got no gas, there's no mains water either. The only heating we've got is from the wood burners," Mr Vater said.

"[The customers] love the log burners. They sit in front of them to have their cup of coffee."

  • What is wet wood?

In the simplest terms, wet wood is wood with a higher moisture content. Although all wood has moisture in it, wet wood typically has a moisture content of more than 20%

According to Lekto Woodfuels, it is less efficient than burning dry wood because it takes longer to burn due to the higher temperature needed to burn off the moisture.

Burning wet wood also releases harmful pollutants that are bad for the environment and for public health more generally.

  • Is burning wet wood bad for us?

The Welsh Government admits in its own 'Explanatory Memorandum' of the 'The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill 2023' that it needs to do more to reduce emissions.

Domestic and commercial burning of solid fuels is estimated to be the largest contributor to fine particular matter (PM2.5) in Wales.

An increase in the use of wood burning stoves, particularly in urban areas across Wales, has coincided with a rise in these emissions, according to the Welsh Government.

PM2.5, or 'particulate matter' as it's sometimes called, is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a "common proxy indicator for air pollution" consisting of sulfates, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water.

In other words, it's a good way to measure how bad the air around us is for us to breathe due to how polluted it is.

The WHO said air pollution is estimated to have caused 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2019.

Wet wood is wood with a higher moisture content, typically of more than 20%.

Campaigners say it's essential that wood stove owners burn cleaner fuels.

According to Asthma and Lung UK Cymru, breathing in these pollutants over several years can increase health risks from lung diseases including cancer.

Joseph Carter, head the charity, said: "Burning wood and burning coal is an incredibly inefficient way of heating your home.

"It's really bad for the environment and really bad for our health and air pollution as a whole leads to the early deaths of nearly 2,000 people in Wales every year."

  • What is the Welsh Government saying?

The Welsh Government says its Clean Air Bill will help prevent pollution but it will not be banning log burners.

A spokesperson said: "The Environment Bill is not banning log burners.

"It will however reduce the impact of incorrect fuel or storage and increase good practice on lighting and burning techniques. This will help to prevent pollution from log burners.

"We are mindful of the potential impact any prohibition or restriction, predominantly on wood burning, may have on fuel poverty."

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