Air Pollution in London and the South East

Branded around, and in the age of clickbait and fake news, it is easy to be mislaid by catchy headliners announcing the end of the world.

Let’s try to see a bit more clearly on this pressing issue.

London has been one of the leading cities in the world in limiting car circulation through controversial but proven to be efficient taxes such as the congestion charge which forces users wishing to use their car to get into London to pay and the daily fee if £11.50 per car.

Huge efforts have also been made in upgrading the entire famous London red busses fleet to hybrid engines, greatly reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the city.

All these efforts have paid off, in many respects, when you consider the famous London fog from the old days is now a thing of the past. London air is clear to the naked eye.

And this is where the argument shifts. While the air appears to be clear, it actually contains high, and often illegal, levels of nitrogen dioxide, which comes largely from diesel engines. Nitrogen dioxide is highly dangerous to humans and is now the main battle for London and the South of England.

Basically, pollution has moved from highly visible particles and a thick fog to totally invisible and only traceable via scientists such as King’s College Air Quality Control unit. While London doesn’t attract such big headlines as Beijing and New Deli, it is unlikely you are much better off in terms of health living in London than these other two cities.

Are wood burning stoves bed for the environment?

Another unexpected cited cause for pollution is the trendy wood burning stoves all the nice houses and flats are equipping themselves with. And this is where you have to be careful with headlines. The Daily Mail recently published an article claiming that a wood burning stove emits 6 times more pollution that a diesel truck. That is a scary headline and food for though.

However, that clickbait headline is quite disingenuous as the daily mail chief scientist explains later in the article, and in much smaller characters, that modern wood burning stoves are highly efficient and would produce less than a 5th of the pollution of an old fashioned one, and even less if you ensure you are burning dry wood, marked as safe of wood burning.

Through the wood burning stove and fireplaces pollution debate, an unlikely hero has come to the rescue. The good old Chimney sweep Wimbledon of centuries ago is proven to be a key player now in the fight against pollution.

We spoke to Claudia and Sascha from Stova Chimney Services, who are a large chimney sweep company covering much of London and the South East. “Our team of chimney sweeps cover a wide area such as Kingston upon Thames, Wimbledon, Carshalton, Dorking, Hasting, Sutton and all surrounding areas. We are disappointed to hear a lot of misleading news about pollution from stoves. This is largely due to people burning wet wood, wood they just collected themselves from a nice walk in the park or burning coal and so on. If you burn dry wood, for a short period of time, the modern stoves are incredibly efficient and do not pollute. It is interesting that the government is now relying on us, chimney sweeps, to educate consumers. It is us who go into people’s home and sweep flues and chimneys, and are best equipped and able to educate on how to burn wood efficiently and avoid unnecessary pollution.“

So there you have it: getting rid of diesel engines and ensuring people use good quality stoves correctly and wood ready for such use is the next battle in the London and overall UK pollution policies.

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