The increased use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves by Greeks anxious to cut down on the rising cost of heating their homes has led to significantly higher levels of atmospheric pollution that comprise a public health risk, according to the results of a new study by Thessaloniki’s Aristototle University.
Scientists from the university’s departments of environmental and chemical engineering found that the cost to public health of the increase in the use of solid fuels in 2012 compared to 2011 amounted to 40 million euros for Thessaloniki alone.
Based on samples taken from the air in 30 homes, the study showed that the use of a fire or wood stove for just two or three hours led to a significant increase in the concentration of atmospheric pollution particles. On average, scientists put the concentration of PM2.5 particles at 50 micrograms per cubic meter and that of larger PM10 particles at 90 mcg per cubic meter (compared to the EU maximum safe levels of 20 mcg/m3 and 40 mcg/m3 respectively).
Scientists expressed particular concern about the increased level of smaller air pollution particles as they can penetrate further into the lungs and affect blood circulation. “If we also consider that many people use chemicals when burning wood, we are talking about a crime in the home that is to our own detriment and that of our children,” said Dimosthenis Sariyiannis, associate professor at Aristotle University.