Learning the full extent of the environmental damage caused by wood-burning stoves led Guardian columnist George Monbiot to issue a public mea culpa – and help ignite a raging debate

In 2008, the Guardian columnist George Monbiot installed not one but three wood-burning stoves in his home. It was part of a plan to move away from fossil fuels, support local sustainable suppliers of firewood and live a greener life. It was a costly error. As he recounted in a recent column, he began to regret his decision straight away. “Even fossil fuels, terrible as their impact is, are less damaging than the public health disaster to which I contributed.”

He tells Hannah Moore how the weight of scientific evidence now shows that they contribute to the country’s worsening outdoor air pollution. Incredibly, though only 8% of households in the UK have a wood-burning stove, they release more small particulates – the most dangerous pollutants – than all the vehicles on the road.

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