Urban pollution from wood combustion

Urban pollution is a many-sided issue of main complexity, either since a major fraction of population live in large or medium- sized cities, where exposure to the urban cocktail may induce serious health effects, or due to the fact that urban areas represent an important pollution source themselves. Concerning the airborne particulate matter, a hugely composite mix of many different inorganic and organic chemical species under solid or liquid phase in the atmosphere, the urban environment provides a large reaction tank where heterogeneous contributions from natural sources (crustal dust and marine aerosol re-suspended by vehicular traffic) and from anthropogenic activities (pipe exhausts and domestic heating mainly, where industrial facilities are not present) mix and combine together, to give also secondary formation products. In this context, research efforts have been carried out to the aim of discriminating a peculiar emission contribution from domestic heating which has recently gained a key environmental role: the household combustion of firewood and pellet in fireplaces or woodstoves.
To reach this goal, source selective tracers (potassium and levoglucosan) have been considered and a number of field campaigns in different urban sites within and outside National boundaries have been carried out (Rome, Fontechiari, Ferrara, Tunis, Tel Aviv, Pancevo, Chamonix, New Dehli). These results show that the household wood combustion may contribute up to 60% of total mass of particulate matter and that winter - summer seasonal differences in the mass concentration of total organic aerosol are mainly due to this source.
As emission from wood combustion contain large amounts of harmful species, among others polyciclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and given that domestic heating firewoods and stoves are not provided with exhausts abatement systems, the recorded increase in the use of these devices places a critical issue of air quality and health impact for the incoming years.