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The truth about fire and flames

Most of us will agree that there’s no smoke without fire. However, isn’t there a difference between crying ‘Fire!’ and the sound of a softly crackling wood stove?

In the daily environmental debate, we tend to react strongly to even the most logical statements. For instance, what pollutes most: heating a summer cottage with a wood-burning stove, frying bacon or lighting two candles on a cosy evening? Most people would probably guess the stove, logically enough, since we can both see and smell the smoke. Even if science tells us that a woodburning stove filled with dry, certified wood only accounts for a few percent of particulate emissions in a home, and that all the rest comes from clothes, cooking, candles and various other ordinary things, it’s easy to assume that a cosy stove or candles are luxuries that environmentally responsible people should avoid. 

When it comes to the environment and health, the truth is often more nuanced than a Facebook post by a politician or an article by an interest group, and the only certainty is that the amount of particulates in an average home is made up of such a complex combination of things that in reality it’s up to you what you choose to believe. At the same time, the number of products we use and consume every day, and the importance we attach to them, varies from person to person.