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Renewable Heat Incentive scheme could bring harmful health repercussions in years to come

letter of the day: smoke pollution

Your readers will be familiar with the fact that the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme was so poorly executed that millions of pounds of taxpayers' money will go up in smoke in the lifetime of the project. What might not be so well-known is what is in the smoke.

Research by, among others, King's College London, has established that the air pollution which reached record levels in London in recent weeks was caused, in almost equal part, by particulates released by diesel vehicles and wood smoke from wood-burning stoves.

The pollution was actually highest on a Sunday night, when vehicle traffic was at its lowest and many Londoners were at home in front of their trendy wood-burning stoves. In Copenhagen, the wood-burning stoves and biomass boilers lit in winter produce more harmful particulates than vehicle traffic in an entire year.

Dr Gary Fuller, the lead researcher at King's College Environmental Research Group, has advised: "Although the apparent carbon neutrality of wood-burning may make it appear more environmentally friendly, there is growing evidence of adverse health effects from wood smoke."

The website of the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA explains what they are: "Short-term exposures to particles (hours, or days) can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks and bronchitis and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.

"Long-term exposures (months, or years) have been associated with problems such as reduced lung function and the development of chronic bronchitis - and even premature death.

"Some studies also suggest that long-term PM 2.5 exposures may be linked to cancer and to harmful developmental and reproductive effects, such as infant mortality and low birth weight".

Worryingly, the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme in Northern Ireland is set to run for 20 years.

MICHAEL ROBINSON

Newtownabbey, Co Antrim

Belfast Telegraph

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