Covered in smoke: why burning biomass threatens European health
January 5, 2018
Dr Mike Holland

Tens of thousands of EU citizens are dying prematurely every year as a result of exposure to air pollution from burning solid biomass, mainly wood, to provide heat and electricity. Other health impacts include cancers, cardiac and respiratory complaints, asthma attacks and working days lost to ill health.  These are among the findings of new research by a leading independent expert, commissioned by Fern. We are publishing the report now as the EU is preparing to agree a proposed revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) to apply after 2020. If approved in its current form, the revised directive will inevitably lead to the continuation of high levels of biomass burning and thus exposure to the dangerous health impacts of biomass emissions. Using this form of fuel to meet renewable energy targets makes little sense on environmental grounds – it leads to carbon dioxide emissions and has negative impacts on forests. The case collapses completely when the disastrous consequences for European health are taken into account, an issue that until now has received far too little attention.

A shorter summary of the main findings and analysis is available here.

briefing note biomass and health

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