Indoor air pollution

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Bioenergy > Issues > Pollution > Indoor air pollution

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The burning of biomass, such as in inefficient wood stoves, can lead to indoor air pollution in the form of smoke, soot and particulate matter. Efficient stoves or alternative cooking and heating technologies can help reduce pollution, thereby decreasing the incidence of respiratory diseases.





  • 23-24 October 2009, Boulder, Colorado, USA: Energy Justice Conference (Themes: biomass, energy access, indoor air pollution)
    • From the Conference Rationale: "This conference will focus on...the energy oppressed poor (EOP) - afflicted by energy access problems....[T]he low energy world...primarily relies on biomass-based fire to meet all of its energy needs....Black soot emitted by imperfect combustion of biomass creates indoor pollution causing the annual death of a million and half persons....In addition, black soot in the atmosphere has recently been identified as a significant source of global warming."



  • Burning issues: tackling indoor air pollution, 7 May 2011 by The Lancet: "According to WHO, 2 million people die as a result of the smoke generated by open fires or crude stoves within their homes every year. Indoor air pollution has been definitively linked to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pneumonia, the risk of which is doubled by exposure to indoor smoke. More than 900 000 people die from pneumonia caused by indoor air pollution every year. 500 million households worldwide—roughly 3 billion people—rely on solid fuels, such as wood, animal dung, or coal, for cooking and heating. These fuels are usually burned in a rudimentary stove, or in a traditional open fire. It need not be a problem, at least in terms of health. But only assuming the fuel is completely combusted—wood must be dry, and the stove must work efficiently—and there is plenty of ventilation, a spacious chimney, or a sizeable window. In those places where the use of solid fuels prevails, however, these conditions rarely apply, and the consequences can be severe."
    • "Yet, 'despite the magnitude of this growing problem' notes WHO 'the health impacts of exposure to indoor air pollution have yet to become a central focus of research, development aid, and policy making'....But the past year has had some encouraging advances."
    • "In September, 2010, the UN Foundation launched the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves....The Alliance—a public-private initiative—brings together partners from the range of specialties across which the issue of indoor air pollution sprawls. There is public health, of course, but also energy, international development, female empowerment, climate change, technology, and business."
    • "The real benefits will be seen by switching to cleaner fuels and cleaner stoves. Improved stoves—those fitted with fans, for example—combust fuel more efficiently, have lower emissions, and require shorter cooking times."[1]


  • World’s Pall of Black Carbon Can Be Eased With New Stoves, 8 March 2010 by Jon R. Luoma for Yale Environment 360: "Two billion people worldwide do their cooking on open fires, producing sooty pollution that shortens millions of lives and exacerbates global warming. If widely adopted, a new generation of inexpensive, durable cook stoves could go a long way toward alleviating this problem."
    • Although the solution is simple, "[r]esearchers have found that it can be difficult to convince people to switch from traditional cooking methods to more advanced stoves, for a variety of reasons that range from uneasiness with unfamiliar or finicky technology, to upfront costs."
    • "Some scientists now estimate that small, solid particles of black carbon are responsible for about one-fifth of warming globally and, as such, are the second-largest contributor to climate change, after carbon dioxide gas."[2]


  • Sustainable biofuels can provide 10% of world's energy 16, December 2008 by Biofuel Review:
    • "In the medium term around 10% of the world's energy needs could be met by sustainable bioenergy from biogenic residues and energy crops, according to a report from the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). However, the report, 'Future Bioenergy and Sustainable Land Use', also warns that utilization of this potential should only be pursued if risks to food security as well as to nature conservation and climate change mitigation targets can be excluded. For this to happen, binding sustainability standards need to be introduced at national and international level."
    • "There are some 50 developing countries in which traditional bioenergy, involving the burning of wood, dung or crop residues for cooking and heating, still accounts for more than 90% of energy use. As a result, more than 1.5 million people die each year of indoor air pollution. The more widespread use of improved wood or charcoal stoves or of micro biogas systems, and the production of vegetable oils from oil plants such as jatropha, represent an important and as yet insufficiently exploited lever for tackling poverty." [3]
  • Clean-burning biomass cookstoves launched 10, December 2008 by Express News Service:
    • "Designed by an international team of globally recognised scientists and engineers, the cookstoves are designed to reduce toxic emissions by as much as 80 per cent while using 50 per cent less fuel and reducing the cooking cycle time by 40 per cent."
    • "The stoves have been developed as result of the partnership between Envirofit and Shell Foundation, UK, to deliver clean burning biomass stoves that are affordable and attractive to people who are impacted by indoor air pollution." [4]



  • The Partnership for Clean Indoor Air
    • "The Partnership focuses on four priority areas which have proved to be essential elements for sustainable household energy and health programs in developing countries: (i) Meeting Social/Behavioral Needs; (ii) Developing Local Markets; (iii)Improving Technology Design and Performance; and (iv) Monitoring Impacts of Interventions."[5]

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