Cookstove Pollution

A study led by Indian American assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Rajan Chakrabarty has found that the emissions from traditional cookstoves in rural parts of India are leading to more pollution. (Washington University in St. Louis photo)

NEW YORK — Smoke emitting from the traditional cookstove, widely used in the rural parts of India with cheap biofuels — such as crop chaff or dung — causes detrimental impact on the country's environment and people's health, an Indian American professor-led study determined.

The findings showed that the traditional cookstove may be producing much higher levels of particulate emissions than earlier thought.

"Our project findings quantitatively show that particulate emissions from cookstoves in India have been underestimated," said Rajan Chakrabarty, assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

In some cases, more than twice the emission levels were detected when compared to the previous findings, the researchers said.

"Traditional cookstove burning is one of the largest source of pollutants in India. We found it's a really big problem; this is revising what people knew for decades," Chakrabarty said.

The results, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, are based on the series of tests conducted in Raipur — where more than three-quarters of the families use cookstoves to prepare their meals.

In December 2015, researchers, including those from Pandit Ravishankar Shukla University in Raipur and the Indian Institute of Tropical Metrology in Pune, burned a wide variety of biofuels acquired from different parts of India, cooked different meals in a number of varying ventilation situations.

They then recorded the resulting emission levels using high-tech particle measurement devices.

While further investigation is needed to evaluate the exact effect of cookstove emissions on the climate and health, the researchers noted that their work lays the foundation for further improving the process by which those effects are evaluated and measured.

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