Air pollution is an invisible killer that lurks all around us, preying on the young and old. The WHO Breathe Life video shows how it slips unnoticed past our body's defenses causing deaths from heart attack, strokes, lung disease and cancer. Help breathe life back into our cities and take action to protect our health and climate.

PM2.5 is the most hazardous air pollutant. It's considered responsible for more premature deaths and ill health than all other air pollutants put together. Table 10.1 of the Air quality in Europe — 2020 report, for example, shows premature deaths for all countries in 2018 attributed to three major pollutants - PM2.5, NO2 and O3 - an estimated 492,600 premature deaths in a population of 539.7 million, of which 85% were attributed to PM2.5, 11% to NO2 and 4% to O3.

Dr Nick Hopkinson, medical director at the Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Partnership said: ‘To protect yourself and others, especially children who are particularly vulnerable as their lungs are smaller and still developing, avoid buying a wood-burning stove or using an open fire if you have another source of fuel to cook and heat your home with.

The NSW Asthma Foundation warned that wood smoke emissions in winter pose a bigger immediate health danger in built up urban areas than cars or cigarettes. The evidence convinced the NSW Chief medical officer, who said "wood heaters are so detrimental to health she supports banning and phasing them out in built-up urban areas".

The Australian Lung Foundation made similarly strong statements: “real-life emissions from new wood-heaters have little relationship to measurements from a perfectly operated test model under laboratory conditions), the Canadian Lung Association (“don’t burn wood in a residential setting”) the American Lung Association (“avoid burning wood”) and the American Lung Association of California who urges the public to avoid wood burning and to consider cleaner heating alternatives. Burning wood emits harmful toxins and fine particles into the air that can worsen asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

One modern 'eco-friendly' wood stove is more polluting than 6 diesel trucks or 18 diesel cars. Air Pollution researcher, Dr Gary Fuller: "even stoves that pass eco-friendly standards still emit around six times more particle pollution than a modern diesel lorry – and 18 times more than a diesel car.

The only tests of real-life emissions of wood heaters satisfying current Australian/New Zealand standards were in NZ. They show that real-life emissions averaged 8 times worse than the lab test, and were little different from emissions of older wood heaters used in Australia - see 'Health Cost of Allowing New Wood Heaters – over $3,000 per heater per year'.

Despite only 4.4% of households using wood as main heating in Sydney, residential wood heating is the largest single source of PM2.5 emissions, according to the NSW 'Air Emissions in My Community' web tool.