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U.S. EPA awards U.C. Berkeley $1.5 million to evaluate air pollution in developing nations

Release Date: 05/28/2014
Contact Information: Rusty Harris-Bishop, harris-bishop.rusty@epa.gov, 415.972.3140

(5/28/2014) SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it is awarding the University of California, Berkeley, a $1.5 million grant for work to assess the impact of pollution from household and village-scale stoves on air quality in developing countries. The grant is part of $9 million awarded nationally to six universities to research cleaner technologies and fuels for cooking, lighting, and heating homes.

“More than three billion people worldwide rely on burning fuels such as wood, plant matter, and animal waste for domestic cooking,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “The soot produced by these unventilated stoves is thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming.”

This project addresses whether health benefits can be gained by exchanging a single stove in a home, or whether neighborhood scale interventions are needed to reduce personal exposures to cookstove emissions. Measurements of pollution traveling between indoor and outdoor air are crucial to fully understanding the health and climatic impacts of indoor cookstoves. Because of this project’s focus on the exchange between residential and outdoor pollution and its focus on India, the research adds great value to the scientific and geographic aspects of the portfolio.

This research will be particularly valuable in evaluating which intervention type and spatial scale can provide the most effective air quality improvements relating to human health. The results will also improve air quality modeling of cookstove emissions surrounding households by comparing real world monitoring data to modeled assessments.

Air emissions from these stoves lead to an estimated four million deaths per year. Researchers receiving funding are also determining the health and environmental benefits of cleaner cooking techniques. In the United States, cookstoves are commonly used in tribal communities of the desert Southwest.

Traditional cookstoves are a major source of black carbon aerosols, producing one-fifth of all black carbon emissions globally. Aerosols are solid and liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere that impact our climate by affecting the amount of radiation from the sun that reaches the earth. Black carbon is emitted directly into the atmosphere in the form of particulate matter. In addition to contributing to climate change, these particles disrupt precipitation patterns and accelerate the melting of snow and ice, which many people rely on for drinking water and farming.

This Science to Achieve Results (STAR) funded research will focus on measuring and communicating the benefits of adopting cleaner cooking, heating, and lighting practices. The research will describe the benefits for slowing climate change as well as for protecting both indoor and outdoor air quality.

For more information, visit: http://epa.gov/ncer/rfa/2012/2012_star_cook_heat_light.html

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