SIR: Winchester City Council is to be congratulated on the launch of its wood-burning campaign. Most local authorities ignore domestic wood-burning - although it is the elephant in the room when it comes to air pollution.

The new campaign is timely since a recent DEFRA report concluded that 49% of stove owners have no idea that woodsmoke is very bad for health. It is a common myth that woodsmoke is natural and therefore somehow harmless. In fact, it contains over 200 carcinogenic compounds and high levels of Particulate Matter 2.5. PM2.5 is one of the the most harmful air pollutants to human health. These invisible particles are so tiny that when inhaled can enter the bloodstream and reach every part of the body. Particulate pollution is associated with a range of conditions including cancer, heart disease, asthma, dementia and COPD.

Woodsmoke does not simply just disperse - much of the particulate pollution enters the woodstove owner’s and neighbours’ homes via natural leakage points. Scientific studies have shown that particle pollution levels inside homes reach up to 70% of the pollution levels outdoors. Our own indoor air quality sensor detects much higher levels of PM2.5 in our home when we can smell woodsmoke in our street. It's particularly bad on dry, still days when the pollution just sits in the air for hours. All stoves pollute – there is no such thing as ‘clean’ wood-burning.

This winter we are advised by scientists to ventilate our homes to reduce the spread of Covid-19. We need to be able to open our windows to allow fresh air supply. That’s not possible if your street reeks of woodsmoke.

The message from WCC is simple "Wood burning causes harmful particulate air pollution in your home and neighbourhood. Breathing in particulate matter pollution negatively impacts the health of your family and community, affecting your lungs and heart"

For those of us with alternatives, the solution is simple too. Leave the stove unlit. Who doesn't want to breathe cleaner air in their home and neighbourhood this winter?

Hazel Agombar,

Egbert Road,