2012 EPA Research Progress Report
Leading the Way to Cleaner Cookstoves
For roughly half the world’s population, the source for both cooking and keeping warm is a simple fire pit surrounded by three large stones arranged to keep a pot, grill, or cooking surface above the flames. For the people who rely on them, these simple and inexpensive “solid fuel” cookstoves do the job.
They are also among the world’s leading sources of environmental death due to indoor air pollution. In its report, Global Health Risks: Mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks (World Health Organization, 2009, accessed December 2012 at http://bit.ly/UjXv8p ) the World Health Organization estimates that indoor air pollution from typical household fires for heating and cooking contributes to nearly two million premature deaths annually.
“Indoor smoke from solid fuel causes about 21% of lower respiratory infection deaths worldwide, 35% of chronic obstructive pulmonary deaths and about 3% of lung cancer deaths,” the report states. And because women and children typically spend more time in countries where such cookstoves are used, they are the most affected.
EPA engineers and scientists are helping lead an international effort to develop a new generation of clean burning cookstoves that will bring relief to those exposed to cookstove emissions in the developing world.
In 2012, EPA research engineers and their colleagues published results from the most extensive independent study done to date to analyze emissions and energy efficiency of cookstoves. The researchers tested 22 different cookstove designs; they measured emissions of air pollutants that cause harmful health effects and contribute to climate change, including carbon monoxide, particulates, hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon.
Results of the worldwide study revealed considerable differences in the amount of air pollutants emitted and in energy efficiency. Among the key findings, researchers found that emissions from some advanced cookstove technologies are significantly lower than the most widely used “three-stone” open fire.
In addition to supporting the potential health benefits from developing new cookstove technologies, the ongoing research provides important scientific insights into global climate change. Because traditional cookstoves account for approximately 20 percent of worldwide emissions of black carbon—a contributor to global climate change—they represent an important potential opportunity for taking action to address climate change.
Another study currently underway will provide additional information on cookstoves, including solar cookers. The work is supported by the EPA-led Partnership for Clean Indoor Air , now integrated with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a United Nations Foundation initiative.