‘Fuel for Thought’ this Winter

The council has launched its new ‘Fuel for Thought’ campaign this week, raising awareness of the dangers of burning wood and other solid fuels in the home.

The campaign highlights that burning solid fuels in stoves and open fireplaces releases tiny, harmful particles in the smoke (known as fine particulate matter, PM2.5 for short) that cause air pollution both inside and outside the home. This can damage the health of those exposed, especially vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and those with underlying conditions such as asthma and emphysema.

While York currently meets the legal requirements for PM2.5, there are no safe levels, and everyone is at risk. Estimates suggest that long-term exposure to PM2.5 contributed to 1 in 22 deaths in York in 2021 (find out more here). Whilst other air pollutants have been steadily declining, downward trends in particulate pollution across York are not as obvious.

Although it might appear more cost-effective to use a wood stove or fireplace with rising energy costs this winter, this is not necessarily the case. Research undertaken by environmental charity ‘Global Action Plan’ showed that wood burners are more expensive than both gas boilers and air source heat pumps in almost every scenario. The research showed that burning wood also has hidden costs for everyone in society.

The ‘Fuel for Thought campaign’ aims to highlight the healthier and more cost-effective ways of heating homes, and, if unavoidable, the safest and most efficient ways of using your wood burner. Funded by DEFRA, the campaign will run until February 2024. Visit our website to find out more:

Cllr Kate Ravilious, Joint Executive Member for Environment and Climate Emergency at City of York Council, said:

 “As the days start to get colder, it’s important to make sure that people in York are aware of the risks posed by their wood burners to their health and the health of others – and the safest, greenest and most efficient ways to stay warm, this winter.

“It’s concerning that that the rate of improvement in particulate pollution has slowed in York in recent years and this is something that we need to change. The ‘Fuel for thought’ campaign offers information and advice to the people of York on dangers of burning solid fuels in the home, on alternative heat sources, and when it is the only option, the best way to do so to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

Cllr Jo Coles, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Social Care

at City of York Council, said:

“It’s really worrying that people in York are dying because of air pollution caused by something as simple as the burning of solid fuels like wood and coal. Yet we know that exposure to these smoke particles can cause a wide range of serious health problems, including heart and lung disease and mental health disorders.

“This campaign is about increasing awareness of the dangers and enabling people to find healthy and cost-effective ways to heat their homes and reduce unnecessary air pollution.”

CYC is currently seeking feedback on air quality in York and specifically on the measures to improve air quality proposed in its draft Fourth Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP4).  The plan outlines the action the council will take to further improve air quality over the next 5 years, to go beyond health-based National Air Quality Objectives in all areas and work towards meeting World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines. This consultation can be found at and closes on 4th Feb 2024