Upper Hunter Wood Smoke Community Research project

Air quality monitoring in Muswellbrook and Singleton, the major population centres in the Upper Hunter, indicates elevated particle pollution levels that periodically exceed the national air quality standards. While coal mines are a major source of particle emissions in the region, wood smoke from solid fuel heaters also contributes significantly towards particle pollution.

The annual wood smoke contribution to PM2.5 is about 30% in Muswellbrook and 14% in Singleton, with winter emissions contributing 62% and 38% respectively (see Upper Hunter fine particle characterisation study). Reducing wood smoke pollution is one of the priority actions outlined in the Upper Hunter Air Particles Action Plan (PDF 953KB).   

Past wood smoke reduction initiatives in the Upper Hunter by the EPA and councils helped raise community awareness of the health impacts of wood smoke, however further actions are needed to reduce wood smoke pollution in the region.

Community research project

In 2015 the EPA conducted a social research project in order to understand community attitudes towards wood heaters and wood smoke pollution in the Upper Hunter and to develop effective wood smoke reduction initiatives.

Research findings

  • Wood heater owners’ attitudes about the impacts of wood smoke are very different from those relating to other forms of particle pollution in the Upper Hunter.
  • There is a lack of awareness about the health impacts of wood smoke amongst wood heater users.
  • Household heating choices are influenced by a complex combination of rational and emotional factors.
  • There is little interest among wood heater users in switching from wood heating to alternative forms of heating.
  • Different segments of the community have different attitudes and levels of awareness about wood smoke.

This research will inform future wood smoke reductions initiatives by the EPA and councils in the region.

Download the full report


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