Wood burning smoke could increase respiratory diseases: Study

Updated: Jan 09, 2013, 16:59 PM IST

Melbourne: A decrease in the usage of wood-burning could significantly reduce the deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, a new study held in an Australian city has found.

The study by Australian and Canadian researchers in Launceston in Tasmania hopes that it will prompt better use of wood heaters or a switch to other heat sources.

The study led by Fay Johnston, a General Practitioner and environmental epidemiologist at Menzies Research Institute Tasmania said the differences in mortality data in 1994-2001 and 2001-2007 were statistically significant in men - differences of 11.4 percent for all-cause mortality; 17.9 percent for cardiovascular illness and 22.8 percent for respiratory complaints.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the study shows results from the winter months for males and females even higher reductions: cardiovascular 20 per cent; respiratory 28 per cent.

"It does tell us that improving the air quality improves death rates," she told AAP news agency.

"Death through air pollution is the tip of the iceberg," she said.

This has major implications for public health policy because every death means a lot more hospital admissions, exacerbations of illnesses and losses of work days, she said.

"There are a lot of places in Australia where wood heaters are in use ... This adds hard evidence for people in public health to keep on working and this will really support their cause," Johnston said.

Maintaining the fact that only 10 to 20 per cent of wood heaters in neighbourhoods are responsible for about 80 per cent of the pollution she hopes that the findings will lead to safer use of wood heaters.

For those who can afford it, she said an alternative method of heating is recommended.