When we think of smoke pollution we tend to think of ugly industrial landscapes belching out black furls of smoke, and it’s usually somewhere ‘other’ from where we live.
However, smoke pollution can be more insidious and much more local with the cause more often due to domestic fires.
The Clean Air Acts
During the 1950’s and ‘60’s, pollution from smoke had got so bad that the government intervened to try to improve conditions.
The Clean Air Act of 1956 was introduced as an ‘emergency’ response to the great London Smog of 1952. This was a culmination of industrial pollution combined with damp, still weather which meant that coal smoke remained in the air to the extent that people could only see a few feet in front of them.
A subsequent Clean Air Act in 1968 extended the reach of the original bill and continued the work to combat air pollution.
The main change resulting from this Act was that ‘smokeless zones’ were introduced. This restricted the burning of coal at home in certain designated areas and also gave powers to control emissions of fumes, grit, dust and black smoke from industrial premises to help curb their polluting effects.
These controls had positive results and went a long way towards preventing premature death through infection and disease associated with poor air quality.
Smoke Control Zones Today
The Clean Air Acts of ’56 and ’68 were amalgamated and updated in 1993 with an overriding new Act which provides the current legislation for smokeless zones today.
Figures currently suggest that bonfires, burning waste, and the use of solid fuel still account for approximately one fifth of the UK emissions of dioxins and other harmful pollutants into the air and that controls to ensure reasonable air quality are still important.
Each Local Authority is responsible for deciding whether the whole or part of their administrative area should be smoke controlled or not. If in doubt, you can check with the Environmental Health dept of your local council to find out the rules for your area.
However, by and large, approximately 50% of the population live in smoke controlled areas and restrictions are particularly in place for large conurbations or highly populated areas as well as other parts where smoke might be deemed to be hazardous to health and/or pose a regular nuisance to residents.
Rules And Regulations For Preventing Domestic Smoke Pollution
If you are living in a smokeless zone, then it is an offence to light an indoor fire or use fuel which has not been authorised for use. (Bonfires and outside barbecues don’t fall under this set of legislation but can be controlled by the local authority via nuisance regulations). It is also an offence to deliver or arrange a delivery of unauthorised types of fuel.
There are some types of smokeless and solid fuel which are acceptable in controlled zones but it is important that you know which are OK to use and whether they are appropriate to your type of stove, boiler or fireplace.
So if you are considering installing a wood-burning stove, open fire or Aga into your home, then do remember to check with your council the regulations that apply for such appliances, before you go to great expense.