Despite their small size, researchers say firelighters worsen air pollution


Even the small amount of firelighters needed to light a fire contribute a massive amount of carbon emissions, according to new research. – dpa

THE DAMP chill of a winter’s night in colder climes once meant that kindling a fire was a slow burn – until the invention of the household firelighter.

But the grey and crumbly blocks, as small as they are and as evanescent as their flame might be, likely contribute more than their fair share to air pollution, according to a team of scientists from China, India and Ireland.

”Firelighters used for open fires and stoves in the home – even if used in small quantities and for a short period of time – emit more black carbon than all biomass fuels put together,” they claim.

The emission of black carbon could in turn affect the climate, the researchers warned in a paper published by the journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science – Nature.

”Black carbon is one of the main pollutants that affect air quality, acting as a climate forcer or driver, second only to carbon dioxide,” said Jurgita Ovadnevaite of University of Galway. Air pollution, in turn, is leading to millions of premature deaths worldwide every year, health bodies have warned.

And while burning so-called renewable biomass can play what the researchers called “a crucial role in transitioning toward climate-friendly heating sources,” the changeover could entail ”collateral damage in terms of the disproportionately high effects on local air quality” due to the use of firelighters.

Oil and gas prices began to climb in 2021 before spiking in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, driving many back to the cheaper – and dirtier – option of heating their homes with wood fires.

”There are an estimated 70 million wood burning stoves, open fires and other solid fuel heating appliances in homes across Europe alone,” the University of Galway said in a statement, warning that the solid fuel use likely increased as oil and gas prices rose. – dpa

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