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U.S. Funds Research to Improve Air Quality in Developing Nations
May 30, 2014

Man cooking at stove on floor
Some 3 billion people rely on wood, coal, crop waste or animal dung for indoor cooking and heating.

29 May 2014

On May 28, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced funding for six universities to research cleaner technologies and fuels for cooking, lighting and heating homes with the goal of improving air quality and protecting the health of people across the developing world.

“Health and environmental impacts of air pollution and climate expand beyond the borders of any one country,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This research funding seeks to provide new tools to reduce health risks for the nearly 3 billion people around the world who are exposed to household air pollution from crude stoves.”

Researchers at universities in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois and Minnesota will receive $9 million in grant funding to evaluate the climate benefits of cleaner cooking methods. Researchers also will assess the health and environmental benefits of cleaner cooking techniques.

Emissions from traditional cookstoves lead to an estimated 4 million deaths per year.

“More than 3 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.”

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.

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 on which many rely for drinking water and farming.

The EPA-funded research will focus on measuring and communicating the benefits of adopting cleaner cooking, heating, and lighting practices. Grants include:

• $1,495,454 to the University of California, Berkeley to explore the relationship between household- and village-scale pollution to understand the effectiveness of cookstove interventions.

• $1,500,000 to the University of Colorado to use small, inexpensive sensors to better monitor human exposure to residential burning pollution and collect data through health assessments and outdoor air quality measurements in Ghana.

• $1,500,000 to Colorado State University to use cookstove interventions in China, India, Kenya and Honduras to explore the emissions, chemistry and movement of indoor cookstove smoke.

• $1,499,998 to the University of Illinois to investigate how local resources affect community acceptance of heating stove interventions, and how measurements can help people understand the air quality and climatic benefits of cookstove interventions in Alaska, Nepal, Mongolia and China.

• $1,489,388 to the University of Minnesota to measure changes in air quality and health outcomes from cleaner cooking and heating technologies and to assess regional weather, air quality impacts, human exposure and health impacts of a rural cookstove intervention in China.

• $1,499,985 to Yale University to use socioeconomic analyses, emission and pollution measurements, and global climate modeling to investigate the effects of cookstove interventions in India.

Administrator McCarthy announced the grants at a reception for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an initiative led by the United Nations Foundation. As a founding member of the alliance, EPA plays an important role in the organization’s activities.

“EPA-funded research has and continues to play an important role in advancing our understanding of environmental issues and how best to protect peoples’ health and our environment,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

The agency is a global leader in supporting cleaner cookstove research, developing international cookstove standards, conducting research on emissions and performance of cleaner cookstoves, and improving knowledge of the health effects from exposure to cookstove emissions.

The alliance is a public-private partnership that 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. Its goal is 100 million homes adopting clean cooking solutions by 2020.