Heating with wood and other biomass is the biggest source of health damaging soot and fine dust particles in Europe. Especially small wood burning appliances contribute disproportionately to air pollution. Particulate matter in our air is the pollutant which has the biggest impacts on our health.
Fine particles are particles with a diameter less than 10 micrometers. Depending on the diameter, the dust particles are divided in fractions: PM10, PM2.5 and PM0,1. A human hair has a diameter of about 50 micrometers. Fine particles are responsible for many health problems. They can cause or aggravate cardiovascular and lung diseases, heart attacks and arrhythmias. And they can also cause cancer.
Less particulate matter would improve Europe’s air quality substantially: Meeting the WHO air quality standard throughout the EU-28 would lead to average PM2.5 concentrations dropping by about one third, resulting in 144,000 fewer premature deaths per year compared with the current situation.
80 to 90 percent of the dust and soot from biomass has grain size range below 1 micrometer. These ultrafine particles can penetrate deep into the lungs or even into the bloodstream. Basically, soot from wood burning is considered to be as harmful to health as soot from diesel engines. In addition, it contributes to climate change.