Welcome to the Armidale Air Quality Group's Homepage. We are concerned with the increasing air pollution from domestic woodheaters in residential areas, not only in Armidale, NSW. These pages contain information on the health risks from woodsmoke, suggestions for tackling the problem, alternative heating methods, how to make your home more energy efficient, as well as the latest air quality measurements for Armidale, and mapping data showing most polluted areas.
[Air quality monitoring was suspended in October 2003 - see below]
Update - air quality measurements have been resumed by Armidale-Dumaresq Council, and the data is published weekly on the Council website.

For latest news and information, please visit our new websites on Google Sites:
  Australian Air Quality Group - Woodsmoke
  Australian Air Quality Group - News and Research

Don't forget the draft Armidale-Dumaresq Local Air Quality Plan is on public exhibition until Tuesday, 13th April, so there is still time to get your comments in. You can send submissions by letter, email, or through the Council website. Check the websites above for more information on woodsmoke and how it can effect you, and the Council website has details on the proposed policy.

Health Experts recommend using clean heating in preference to wood heaters

The Australian Lung Foundation recommends: use alternative methods (instead of wood heaters) for climate control, including insulating and improving the energy efficiency of homes, flued gas and and electric heaters and energy efficient house design more info

The American Lung Association (ALA) recommends: "avoid burning wood in homes where less polluting heating alternatives are available". more info

The UK Government recommends: "Avoid burning solid fuels if possible. If you live in a smoke control area, burn only authorised smokeless fuels (your local authority can advise you)" more info


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November 2009
Wood Fires Can Harm the Youngest Lungs. ... read more
September 2009 - Dust Storms

The dust storm which affected much of Eastern Australia on Wednesday 23rd caused extremely hazardous levels of air pollution. 24-hour average readings of PM10 reached levels around 2000 μg/m3, ie 2 milligrams per cubic metre, with one-hour nephelometer scattering coefficients around 30. The maximum level of PM10 over 2400 μg/m3 was recorded at Newcastle, and the maximum one-hour nephelometer coefficient over 37 was recorded at Lindfield in Sydney. The high nephelometer readings indicate a significant proportion of the dust was PM2.5, but most was made up of coarser particles. Recommended maximum daily average for PM2.5 is 25 μg/m3.
This graph shows the rolling 24-hour average PM10 measurements at Tamworth, and a monitoring station in Sydney (Randwick). Also plotted is the one-hour nephelometer coefficient at Randwick. The nephelometer gives a better indication of the duration of the dust storm than the PM10 measurements. Because they are averages over the previous 24-hours, the PM10 values remain high after the dust event has passed. However, it is possible to derive the corresponding one-hour average PM10 measurements as shown in this graph.
A second dust storm occurred on Saturday, 26th September, with much less levels - but still harardous - of particles being recorded.
More information: ABC 7:30 Report | ABC Science Report - Dust storm born out of flooding rains | Daily Telegraph Report

July 2008
Woodsmoke Newsletter
  1. Montreal public heath: 9 hours woodheating = same pollution as a year's driving...
  2. ...but 9 hours woodheater pollution might be more harmful than a year's car pollution
  3. Armidale lung specialist: "Control of wood smoke air pollution is an important public health issue… We need to eliminate or minimise the need for heating by design ... wherever possible, substitution with other non-polluting technologies is the best."
  4. Health Canada: why do children in home with wood stoves appear to have more respiratory infections?
  5. Health Canada: do HEPA filters reduce indoor exposure?
  6. Write to Federal & State Ministers of Health & Environment about the 'Nationally Consistent' approach to woodheater management
... read more
June 2008
Urgent need to reduce woodsmoke emissions - Letter to politicians
May 2008
Woodsmoke Newsletter
  1. Australian research - woodsmoke may be worse than car exhausts
  2. Woodsmoke - largest single source of PM2.5 in Sydney
  3. 'Nationally Consistent' approach to woodheater management
  4. Tell the pollies what you think!
  5. New real-life tests - a new heater burning overnight emits more pollution than driving a car for a year (enough to pollute 0.6 kilometres x 0.6 km x 10 m to 50 ug/m3); smoky heaters also cause more global warming than heating the same house with gas
  6. Testimony – Prof Joel Schwartz
  7. Canadian Lawsuit – $270,000 damages for blanketing neighbour with woodsmoke
  8. Dr Fay Johnston's paper - effects of woodsmoke exposure in Darwin
  9. Study links air pollution to DVT (deep vein thrombosis, 'economy-class' syndrome)
  10. PM pollution increases blood pressure - broader public action needed to curb effects
... read more
April 2008
In Sydney the latest emissions inventory shows that woodheaters are the largest single source of PM2.5 in Sydney – 4503 tonnes per year, 5.6 times as much as the 797 tonnes from passenger cars. With PM2.5 in general estimated to increase mortality by 6% (and woodsmoke by 8%) and air pollution killing up to 1400 Sydneysiders every year, we call on the Government to introduce policies to slash emissions from this the largest source of health-hazardous PM2.5 pollution as a matter of urgency. ... read more
December 2007
Talk to Sustainable Living Armidale ... read more (Acrobat pdf file)
November 2007
Economic cost of woodsmoke pollution - talk presented at the Launceston Air Quality Forum, 2006 ... read more
August 2007
Woodsmoke Newsletter
  1. New statistical analyses show health effects of fine particle air pollution are worse than previously thought
  2. NZ woodsmoke costs half a billion dollars per year
  3. New 197-page UK report on the long-term health effects of air pollution. "air pollution has a greater effect on mortality in the UK than previously thought, with a 10 µg/m3 increase in fine particles being associated with a 6% increase in risk of death from all causes"
  4. New spatial analyses: 8% increase in mortality for each 10ug/m3 increase in annual PM10 exposure (Christchurch) and 6% (Auckland)
  5. New time series analyses of air pollution (mainly woodsmoke) in Christchurch
  6. Australian Standards Committee - considering a health warning on woodheaters, most Committee members wanted immediate reduction in emissions to 2 g/kg, but strong opposition by industry
  7. Review of literature suggests woodsmoke as bad as other forms of particulate pollution
... read more
October 2006
Launceston is unlikely to meet national standards for fine particle air pollution until 2009, says a Federal Government study ... read more
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is calling for a total ban on wood heaters in the Launceston area ... read more
September 2006
Armidale pollution much higher than levels that kill 1400 Sydneysiders
Armidale residents may have been shocked by TV, radio and newspaper reports that that air pollution kills up to 1400 Sydneysiders every year. It’s even more shocking to consider how air pollution affects our own health ...read more
May 2006
Woodheater user comes under fire
Air quality forum in Launceston, Tasmania told of high costs to health caused by smoke from woodheaters...read more

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Latest Air Pollution Research News

January 2007
Woodsmoke health effects: a review - Naeher LP, Brauer M, Lipsett M, et al. Inhal Toxicol. 2007 Jan;19(1):67-106 Abstract | Full Text (Acrobat pdf 2 MB)
May 2006
A study of infant mortality in California strengthens the link between fine particulate air pollution and infant mortality: Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) air pollution and selected causes of postneonatal infant mortality in California - Woodruff TJ, Parker JD, and Schoendorf KC. Environ Health Perspect 114:786-790 (2006) Abstract | Full Text (Pdf)
April-June 2006
Ambient Woodsmoke and Associated Respiratory Emergency Department Visits in Spokane, Washington
- AB Schreuder, TV Larson, L Sheppard, CS Claiborn.  Int J Occup Environ Health 2006;12:147–153 | Acrobat file | Journal website
March 2006
The Effects of Air Pollution on Hospitalizations for Cardiovascular Disease in Elderly People in Australian and New Zealand Cities - Barnett AG, Williams GM, Schwartz J, Best TL, Neller AH, Petroeschevsky AL, and Simpson RW   Abstract    Environ Health Perspect doi:10.1289/ehp.8674 Online 13 March 2006
"Elderly populations in Australia need to be protected from air pollution arising from outdoor sources to reduce cardiovascular disease"
December 2005
Pollution from the average wood heater estimated to cost thousands of dollars per year. Air pollution in Australia: review of costs, sources and potential solutions Health Promotion Journal of Australia Article (Acrobat pdf)
July 2005
Woodsmoke exposure may increase lung cancer risk by similar mechanism as tobacco smoke
   Abstract in Chest Journal  |  Summary at Burning Issues



Less particle pollution, fewer deaths
Cost-benefit analyses show the cost of solid-fuel heating is many times higher than any benefit. This was clearly demonstrated when PM pollution in Dublin was reduced by banning non-smokeless coal. There were 15.5% fewer respiratory and 10.3% fewer cardiovascular deaths in the 6 years after the ban, compared to the previous 6 years (116 fewer respiratory and 243 fewer cardiovascular deaths/year). This reduction in mortality, sustained over 6 years, represents a substantial benefit to society far greater than the cost of switching to less polluting heating. Just as many fewer people died in Dublin when smoky coal heaters were banned, there would be fewer deaths in Australia if smoky woodheaters were banned.
"We have followed up the Six City Study cohort, and found results of considerable public policy import. Pollution levels dropped substantially in one of our cities, and moderately in a second city, while remaining roughly stable in the remaining cities. When we analyzed deaths in the more recent follow-up period, we found that the death rates in those two cities had dropped relative to the rates in the other four cities. Again, this was after controlling for individual risk factors (smoking, hypertension, etc.). That is, reducing air pollution concentrations reduced mortality rates."
- Dr Joel Schwartz' testimony to the US Government Committee on Science (May 2002) Link


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Armidale Air Quality Measurements

Air Quality measurements in Armidale finished at the end of October 2003. The Belfort nephelometer was no longer functioning properly, and was in need of major overhaul or replacement. Currently, Armidale-Dumaresq Council has no funding allocated to resume air pollution monitoring.

Meanwhile, Armidale-Dumaresq Council has set up a special committee to review the woodsmoke problem in Armidale. The Domestic Energy Working Party meets every couple of months. If you have any issues you want raised, you can send us an email at address below, or contact one of the other committee members.

Update - air quality measurements have been resumed by Armidale-Dumaresq Council, and the data is published weekly on the Council website.


We have taken every effort in the preparation of these web-pages to ensure that the information presented is correct, that references made are to reliable sources, and that the content reflects the consensus of scientific research in this subject. Corrections and revisions may be made as further data validation is carried out, and if we are informed of errors, inaccuracies or omissions. If you have any comments on anything that concerns you in these web-pages, or want to make any suggestions for improving the content, please send us an email to:
Armidale Air Quality Group: airqual [at] 3sc [dot] net

Light Scattering from Particle