Tax wood burners, says lung specialist

A TAX on burning wood is needed for Launceston because the city faces a tough winter battling woodsmoke, warns a lung specialist.

Australian Lung Foundation member and respiratory physician Jim Markos said yesterday a tougher pollution guideline, called the PM2.5 measure, was expected this year, meaning statistics would show more bad Launceston woodsmoke days.

He also called for cheaper electrical heating options.

Dr Markos said increases in electricity prices were no reason to abandon efforts to replace woodheaters in the Tamar Valley.

Dr Markos said a woodsmoke reduction was needed because there was no safe level and last year, Launceston had 10 days when the city had more than the recommended level of the fine PM2.5 particles in the atmosphere.

He said the federal government recommended no more than five days a year with elevated PM2.5 readings and was about to treat the PM2.5 readings the same way as it did the larger PM10 readings, making the PM2.5 monitoring a guideline rather than just a recommendation, thus increasing the pressure for pollution reduction.

So the Launceston City Council should charge a woodheater fee plus charge wood merchants and use the proceeds for pollution reduction, he said.

Dr Markos also said the state government should give low income earners a substantial hydro heat tariff subsidy.

Launceston City Council general manager Robert Dobrzynski said the council offered a $500 grant under the woodheater replacement program and 2500 heaters had been removed since 2001.

He said the council issued 10-12 infringements notices a year for illegal burning or excessive woodsmoke but he doubted the council had the legal power to charge wood merchants.

A state government spokesman said electricity for hot water and space heating was significantly cheaper than other tariffs and concessions for low income earners were among the nation's most generous.

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