Chimney sweeps launch ‘BurnRight’ air quality campaign

Chimney sweeps have launched a campaign across England and Scotland to educate consumers on lessening the impacts of air pollution when burning solid fuels in the home.

The ‘BurnRight’ campaign, launched this month by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, seeks to educate customers about the impact of burning wet wood on particulate matter as well as how the practice of ‘slumbering’ can also lead to the release of harmful emissions.

Wood burning accounts for between 23 and 31% of fine particulate (PM2.5) emissions in London and Birmingham, a study has estimated

Through a campaign website which includes videos and tips on safe domestic burning, as well as face to face contact with customers, the Guild hopes that the campaign will help to educate stove and open fire users about how good practice can reduce air pollution.

The organisation adds that wet wood burning, where material is burned at a lower temperature, resulting in a higher release of emissions, is a frequent problem, but can be easily overcome by stove owners.


The Guild has also expressed concerns over the number of people who leave their stove running overnight on a low flame — known as slumbering — to prevent having to relight the appliance in the morning. Continued low temperature burning turns the wood into heavy tar-like chemicals, the Guild notes, which can stick to the inside of chimneys.

Commenting on the campaign, Lawson Wright, chair of the Guild of Chimney Sweeps, said: “I have worked to produce a set of consumer information regarding the common problem of low temperature burn.

“The wet wood issue is relatively easily overcome by good advice, demonstrations and recommendations by professional sweeps.

“We have learned over some years that the problems associated with low temperature burning and “slumbering” is largely unknown to consumers and the issue is being overlooked. If it is not properly addressed, the problem of pollution and particulate emissions from poor burning habits will remain.”

In Scotland, the initiative is being backed by the charity Environmental Protection Scotland. John Bynorth, policy and communications officer at Environmental Protection Scotland, said: “Chimney sweeps are the fortunate position of having a ‘captive’ audience to impart the message on good burning practice. They visit the owners of wood burning and other solid fuel burning appliances in their homes and businesses on a daily basis and will find them receptive to some good, honest face to face advice.

“There is growing evidence that many consumers are not adhering to the guidelines for safe burning, contributing to the release of particulate matter into the atmosphere.

“In particular, many householders do not realise the effect of ‘slumbering’ on the environment. They think it is convenient to keep their stove on a low flame to keep their home warm while they go to bed, without realising the environmental implications for them and their families.”

Government is currently seeking evidence on the impact of the use of solid fuels in homes aiming to establish whether steps should be taken to transition from using polluting fuels in the home towards cleaner technologies (see story).

Evidence published this year has suggested that wood burning may account for up to 30% of fine particle emissions in cities (see story).

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