Quantification of Black Carbon and Other Pollutant Emissions from a Traditional and an Improved Cookstove

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Traditional methods of cooking in developing regions of the world emit pollutants that endanger the lives of billions of people and contribute to climate change. This study quantifies the emission of pollutants from the Berkeley-Darfur Stove and the traditional three-stone fire at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory cookstove testing facility. The Berkeley-Darfur Stove was designed as a fuel efficient alternative to the three-stone fire to aid refugees in Darfur, who walk long distances from their camps and risk bodily harm in search of wood for cooking. A potential co-benefit of the more fuel efficient stove may be reduced pollutant emissions.

This study measured emissions of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and sunlight-absorbing black carbon. It also measured climate-relevant optical properties of the emitted particulate matter. Pollutant monitors were calibrated specifically for measuring cookstove smoke.

This study found that the Berkeley-Darfur Stove consumed about sixty-five percent of the wood consumed by the three-stone fire and emitted about sixty percent of the carbon monoxide and particulate matter emitted by the three-stone fire when performing the same cooking task. Emissions of black carbon were, on average, lower for the Berkeley-Darfur Stove but this result was not statistically significant due to large test-to-test variability in emissions. Particulate matter emissions of the Berkeley-Darfur Stove were, on the whole, more light absorbing, as evidenced by a reduction in single scattering albedo.

This study supports the notion that wide implementation of efficient cookstoves can reduce the harmful effects of exposure to woodstove smoke and potentially help in mitigating climate change through reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Changes to particulate matter emissions and their sunlight-absorbing properties may also influence climate. Future research should seek to understand why laboratory tests of cookstoves may not accurately reflect their performance in the field so that the health and climate impacts of improved cookstoves can be quantified with greater certainty

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