By Katie Lubinsky
It 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.
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.