Clean Cookstoves

This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey FitzpatrickResearch Recap Graphic Identifier: Thanksgiving Edition

I come from a big family so on holidays – Thanksgiving in particular – the kitchen can get pretty hectic. This inevitably ends with someone breaking, spilling, or burning something.

While a burnt turkey would be a major disappointment to some of us, it’s the least of kitchen worries for nearly half of the people in the world, who rely on the use of open fires and traditional cookstoves and fuels to cook their food. Cookstove smoke is a major contributor to dangerous indoor air quality, affecting the health of millions.

EPA is an international leader in clean cookstove research and we’ve highlighted some of those efforts this week.

  • Clean Cookstoves Research: An Opportunity to Benefit Billions
    Bryan Bloomer, Ph.D. joined EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other prominent leaders this week at the first ever ministerial- and CEO-level Cookstoves Future Summit, “Fueling Markets, Catalyzing Action, Changing Lives,” in New York City.
    Read more.
  • EPA Clean Cookstove Research
    EPA provides independent scientific data on cookstove emissions and energy efficiency to support the development of cleaner sustainable cooking technologies. EPA also conducts studies to understand the health effects from exposure to emissions from cookstoves.
    Read more.

And here’s some more research that has been highlighted this week.

  • Highlighting the Health-protective Properties of Alaskan Berries (your Elders already knew)
    Regions of the Alaskan arctic tundra are considered to be on the ‘front lines’ of climate change. The climate exerts a decisive impact on terrestrial plants, including the wild indigenous berries that thrive even above the tree line, the most hostile environments throughout the state.
    Read more.
  • UMass Amherst Receives $4.1 million EPA grant for Drinking Water Research
    EPA award a grant of $4.1 million to the University of Massachuessets, Amherst to establish the Water Innovation Network for Sustainable Small Systems (WINSS), which will develop and test advanced, low-cost methods to reduce, control and eliminate various groups of water contaminants in small water treatment systems.
    Read more.

If you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section!

 

About the Author: Student contractor Kacey Fitzpatrick is thankful for her new job writing about EPA research for the Agency’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Clean Cookstoves Research: An Opportunity to Benefit Billions

By Bryan Bloomer, Ph.D.

I have long appreciated the ability to cook and heat my home with minimum risk of exposure to toxic indoor air pollution. But I am also painfully aware that more than 3 billion people around the world rely on inefficient, unsustainable and dangerous cookstove technologies for their everyday cooking, heating and lighting needs.

Display of clean cookstoves.

EPA’s Bryan Bloomer examines clean-burning prototypes at the Cookstoves Future Summit in New York City.

That is why I am so pleased to join EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other prominent leaders this week at the first ever ministerial- and CEO-level Cookstoves Future Summit, “Fueling Markets, Catalyzing Action, Changing Lives,” in New York City.

Traditional cookstoves typically burn biomass fuels such as wood, dung, crop residues, charcoal or the fossil fuel, coal. This causes a wide range of negative health effects to the people, primarily women and children, exposed to the smoke they emit. And there’s more. The use of traditional cookstove technologies also depletes natural resources, contributes to deforestation, and releases harmful pollutants into the atmosphere that contribute to climate change at regional and global scales.

This is why clean cookstoves research is a top EPA priority. Our goal is to transform the sustainability and health impacts of the energy infrastructure in ways that will not only improve the health of billions, most of them disadvantaged women and children, but improve the global environment as well.

We conduct and support cooperative research to identify gaps and deliver practical solutions from a wide array of stakeholders. The Agency is leading an international clean cookstove research effort, helping to support the development of international cookstove standards, conducting trusted independent research on the energy efficiency and emissions of cookstoves, and improving our understanding of the negative health impacts from exposure to cookstove smoke.

In March 2012, EPA announced the funding of six universities to address residential burning and its effects on human health worldwide. This group of researchers is developing innovative technologies to quantify the impacts of cookstove emissions on climate and air quality.

Moving forward, we and our many partners in this global effort will focus on translating these results into the field, primarily bringing innovative, consumer-driven and life-saving technologies to individuals worldwide.

Turning research results into welcomed solutions is the topic of this week’s Cookstoves Future Summit. The summit presents a unique opportunity to further develop a thriving and sustainable clean cookstove market. Such a market will mean substantial progress toward preventing the more than 4 million estimated indoor air pollution related deaths due to traditional cookstoves and fuels.

The clean cookstoves challenge encompasses a number of health, social and environmental issues. Such a pressing and compelling problem presents us with a significant opportunity to improve livelihoods, empower women and protect the environment for generations to come.

About the Author: Dr. Bryan Bloomer is the director of the Applied Science Division at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. He works with grant managers that support scientists and engineers through the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants program, to improve EPA’s scientific basis for decision on air, climate, water and energy issues.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Research Recap: This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research recap graphic identifier, a microscope with the words "research recap" around it in a circleA good amount of my college career was spent on the top floor of the library, cramming for exams the next day. Even after graduating, I have yet to drop the habit. The night before my first day at EPA, I was frantically trying to catch up on all the research that the Agency had been doing so that I could follow along the next day.

A month later, I’m still a little lost during meetings – there is just that much going on here!

To help keep up—and break a bad habit—I’ve decided to do a quick, weekly review. And as part of the science communication team, I figured it would be a good thing to share what I’ve learned. Starting today, I’ll be posting a quick rundown most Fridays of some of the research that’s been reported by EPA and others over the week.

This is the first post in a new, weekly segment we are calling “Research Recap.”

And if you have any comments or questions about what I share or about the week’s events, please submit them below in the comments section. My colleagues and I will contact our scientists and get back to you as soon as we can with answers. And don’t worry, I promise there won’t be any pop quizzes!

 

This week’s Research Recap:

 

  • Careers in Environmental Health Science

Oregon State University’s superfund research program created the video “Careers in Environmental Health” to introduce students to various careers in science. Scientists from both the university and EPA were interviewed about their job, as well as how they ended up becoming a scientist.

Watch the videos.
Meet more EPA researchers at work.

 

  • Colorado State University Hosts Cookstove Testing Marathon

Colorado State University hosted a laboratory testing campaign as part of a $1.5 million study on the air quality, climate and health effects of cookstove smoke to help determine to what extent the stoves used by 3 billion people worldwide for heating, lighting and cooking are contributing to climate change and global air quality.

Read more.

 

  • Studying Stream Restoration

EPA scientists set out to evaluate how well “out-of-stream” restoration actions (those actions that take place in the watershed as opposed to within streams) work. These approaches are important because efforts that have focused solely on habitat restoration within streams have had limited success.

Read more.

 

  • EPA Report Shows Progress in Reducing Urban Air Toxics Across the United States

Based largely on Agency clean air research, EPA released the Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress—the final of two reports required under the Clean Air Act to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics. The report shows the substantial progress that has been made to reduce air toxics across the country since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

Read more.

 

  • From Lake to Classroom: EPA workshop on Lake Erie Provides Tools for Science Teacher

A seventh-grade science teacher spent a portion of his summer on an EPA research vessel as part of a workshop sponsored jointly by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy and EPA. “Having the opportunity to research alongside EPA and university scientists aboard a floating science lab was truly a one-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.

Read more.

 

  • Local Water Woes, No More? Advancing Safe Drinking Water Technology

In 2007, a student team from the University of California, Berkeley won an EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award for their research project aiming to test a cost-effective, self-cleaning, and sustainable arsenic-removal technology. The same group of former Berkeley students who formed the P3 team now own a company called SimpleWater, which aims to commercialize their product in the US.

Read more.

 

  • Microbe-Free Beaches, Thanks to Dogs

Seagull droppings can carry disease-causing microbes which can contaminate beaches and water. In a new study, researchers show that unleashing dogs keeps the seagulls away—and the water at the beach free of microbes.

Read more.

 

About the Author: Writer Kacey Fitzpatrick recently joined the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a student contractor.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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A New Frontier for Air Sensors 2014

By Dustin Renwick

palm-sized air quality sensor

Compact air quality sensor fits in the palm of your hand.

The wearable market has expanded its product line—from smart glasses and smart watches to dozens of different fitness tracker wristbands and T-shirts that interact with the world around you.

What you don’t see in these gadgets is the tiny technologies that make it possible for your T-shirt to light up or for you to tap your wrist and see how many calories you’ve burned.

Similar to how computers shrunk from the size of rooms to the size of your front pocket, sensors have also been developed in ever decreasing dimensions.

One of the major applications for EPA: sensors that measure air quality. Agency researchers and others can use these portable, real-time sensors in the environment to gain a more intricate picture of what’s happening in our communities.

We’ve hosted a competition won by a design for a wearable sensor that estimates a person’s exposure to air pollution. EPA grants fund broad cookstove research, some of which includes the use of air sensors to measure pollution from indoor cookstoves.

Last fall, EPA collaborators published a seminal paper on the sensor revolution in a top journal, Environmental Science & Technology. The journal received more than 5,400 submissions in 2013 on a variety of topics, and EPA’s research won first runner-up for best feature paper.

One of the most important parts of this field of study is the diversity of people interested in the work.

Next week, we’ll hold an air sensors workshop to spark more discussions and continue this important work advancing innovative air sensor technologies by bringing together scientists, policy experts, technology developers, data analysts, and leaders from government, industry, and community groups.

To learn more about the opportunities and challenges that air sensors present, register for the webcast of our workshop on June 9-10.

We’ll live tweet the event from @EPAresearch using #AirSensors.

About the author: Dustin Renwick works as part of the innovation team in the EPA Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Supporting Innovation for Cleaner Burning Cookstoves and Cleaner Air

By Jim Johnson

The end of May is always one of my favorite times of year. It includes Memorial Day, the official holiday to honor the service of our dedicated military personnel and military veterans, and my birthday.

If your neighborhood is anything like mine, the end of May also coincides with the time of year when the evening air fills with the unmistakable scent of backyard grilling. Barbeque season. Here in this country, that distinctive odor of smoke is associated with tasty food, relaxing, and good times spent with friends and family.

But for most of the world’s population, the smell of an open fire is something completely different. It’s not nostalgic or a welcome diversion from the norm, but a necessity.

Nearly three billion people worldwide rely on burning fuels such as wood, plant matter, coal, and animal waste. And because most of that occurs indoors, it’s a health hazard, too.  The World Health Organization estimates that exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves leads to 4.3 million premature deaths per year.

Cookstove researcher at work

EPA is a leader in conducting and supporting clean cookstove research.

What’s more, it’s not just a local problem. The smoke from traditional cookstoves is a major source of black carbon, an air pollutant linked to a range of impacts associated with our changing climate, including increased temperatures, accelerated ice and snow melt, and changes in the pattern and intensity of precipitation.

And that brings me to another reason why the end of May this particular year is even a bit more special for me than usual: Yesterday, EPA announced almost $9 million in research grants awarded to six universities to help usher in a new generation of clean, efficient cookstoves.

Funded through our Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, the research will focus on measuring and communicating the benefits of adopting cleaner cooking, heating, and lighting practices. The impact of the work will improve air quality and protect the health of billions of people, as well as slow climate change—a benefit for everyone, and the global environment, too.

The universities and their research are:

  • Colorado State University researchers will provide new cookstoves to rural areas in China, India, Kenya, and Honduras to explore how their adoption will impact and improve emissions, chemistry, and movement of indoor smoke; they will also assess health and climate impacts.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers will investigate how local resources in rural communities in Alaska, Nepal, Mongolia, and China affect the acceptance of cleaner heating stoves, and take measurements to learn how their use impacts air quality and carbon emissions.
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis researchers will measure changes in air quality and health outcomes from cleaner cooking and heating technologies in China, and model regional weather, air quality, exposure and human health impacts.
  • University of California, Berkeley researchers will explore the relationship between household and village-scale pollution to understand the effectiveness of using cleaner-burning cookstoves.
  • Yale University researchers will use socioeconomic analyses, emissions and pollution measurements, and global climate modeling to investigate the impacts of using next-generation cookstoves in India.
  • University of Colorado, Boulder researchers will use small, inexpensive sensors to monitor indoor air pollution exposure in homes. They will also collect data through health assessments and outdoor air quality measurements in Ghana.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced the grants at a reception hosted by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. EPA is a founding member of this public-private partnership, which seeks to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. Our collective goal: 100 million homes adopting clean cooking solutions by 2020. Achieving that will really be something to celebrate!

About the Author: Dr. James H. Johnson Jr. is the Director of EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research, which runs the Agency’s STAR program as well as other grant, fellowship, and awards programs that support high quality research by many of our nation’s leading scientists and engineers.

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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EPA Helps Lead the Way in Cleaning Up Stoves

By Katie Lubinsky

Cookstoves for testingIt kills approximately 1.9  million people each year, is the fourth worst overall environmental health risk in developing countries, and contributes to chronic illnesses including pneumonia, lung cancer and  cardiovascular disease. The source of such harmful health effects? Smoke from open fires and cookstoves used by people in developing countries.

EPA, as part of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, is helping to lead the way in testing cookstove technologies. Recently, I spoke with EPA’s Jim Jetter, the lead author on the most extensive, independent study of air pollutant emissions and energy efficiency on cookstoves done to date. Results of the study were published in the October issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

EPA researcher testing a cookstove.

I discovered that Jim’s research involved the testing of 22 cookstoves using a wide variety of fuels, such as biomass and wood products. His research team measured emissions of air pollutants including carbon monoxide and particles known to cause health effects. Researchers also tested the stoves for energy efficiency.

One question that popped in my head was, “Do cookstove emissions from other countries affect the United States?”  And it seems there is strong evidence from other studies that parts of the U.S. are affected by air pollution from Asia.  Cookstove emissions largely contribute to the formation of ‘brown clouds,’ over countries like Asia. These brown clouds can travel between continents and potentially cause health effects … but that’s not all.

Cookstove fuels release greenhouse gases and black carbon when burned, which contributes to climate change. In fact, about 20 percent of black carbon emissions worldwide come from cookstoves.

While research continues, EPA reaches out with a challenge to college students to design a better, more efficiently designed cookstove:

Our “People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3)” sustainable design competition has a category specifically addressing clean energy and cookstoves. Submit your ideas, and you could be awarded a grant of up to $15,000 to support concept development.  But hurry!  The deadline for applicants in the P3 competition is Dec. 11th. Get the details for how to apply for a P3 grant here: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/2013/2013_p3.html.

To read more about the recently-released study on clean cookstove, click here.

About the author: Katie Lubinsky is a student contractor working with EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Science Wednesday: Cleaner Cookstoves, Countless Benefits

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Becky Fried

Imagine a technology that can help mitigate the fourth leading cause of death in the world.

Now, imagine that that same technology can also reduce green house gas emissions globally, reduce the risk of violence and abuse of women in developing countries, slow the rate of deforestation, improve respiratory and lung health, and stimulate local economies. Imagine that the technology can reduce tribal conflicts and increase the ability of young girls to go to school.

Finally, imagine that it is cheap and easy to use.

The technology is a clean cookstove—a replacement for the traditional fuel wood, kerosene, or charcoal burning stoves that millions of women and girls in developing nations use every day in poorly ventilated homes.

In September of this year, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private partnership aimed at bringing cleaner, more efficient stoves to 100 million homes in the developing world by 2020.

Last week, I traveled to Ethiopia with Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development at EPA to get an on-the-ground understanding of the importance of the cookstoves issue and to talk with the people whose lives are being impacted the most.

Some homes we visited had traditional wood-burning stoves. Others had cleaner stoves that ran on alternative fuels like ethanol. The differences were stark.

One mother, whose small one-room home housed a traditional fuel wood-burning stove complained that it was difficult to breathe. She lives there with her three children, under constant exposure to soot and smoke in a poorly ventilated room. The scene was typical of most households that rely on a fuel-wood burning stove for daily cooking needs.

We stopped to chat with another local woman whose small condominium contains a cleaner, stove that runs on ethanol. She admitted that since using the newer technology, her breathing has improved, her eyes have stopped stinging, and she has experienced significantly reduced symptoms of her primary health burden:HIV.

A cleaner cookstove is a sustainable solution to an integrated problem. It’s a simple, elegant way to make significant improvements across many sectors simultaneously: social, economic, environmental, and health. After witnessing cleaner cookstoves in action last week, the effort to implement sustainable appropriate technologies seems more important than ever.

About the Author: Becky Fried is a science writer in EPA’s Office of Research and Development

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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