A new study by the University of California, Berkeley and IIT Delhi has estimated that a major dent in air pollution can be made by curbing emissions from household fuels such as wood, dung, coal and kerosene. The study states that fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) from household air pollution also eats away at the user’s health and according to the researchers’ estimates, at least 2,70,000 lives can be saved in a year in India by eliminating emissions from these sources.
The study was published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Mitigating the use of household fuels can reduce air pollution related deaths in the country by about 13 per cent,” Sagnik Dey from IIT, Delhi, who was one of the researchers, told The Indian Express.
Eliminating emissions from these sources — without any changes to levels of industrial or vehicle emissions — would bring the average outdoor air pollution levels below the country’s air quality standard, Dey explained. This would cut India’s average annual air pollution to 38 micrograms per cubic metre, just below the country’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 40 micrograms per cubic metre, said Professor Kirk Smith, an expert on the health effects of household energy use and a Professor of Global Environmental Health at the University of California, Berkeley.
Despite being above the World Health Organisation’s standard of 10 micrograms per cubic metre, researchers said this could have a dramatic impact on the health of the people. In many rural areas, where electricity and gas lines are scarce, the bulk of air pollution originates from burning biomass such as wood, cow dung or crop residues, to cook and heat up the home, and from burning kerosene for lighting.
Talking about the findings of the study at a workshop on air pollution in Goa recently, Sarath Guttikunda, director of Urban Emissions and one of the authors, said in India, more than 6,73,000 premature deaths per year are linked to outdoor air pollution. Of this, up to 30 per cent are linked to household emissions, as per a policy brief published by the Collaborative Clean Air Policy Centre. An additional 4,80,000 premature deaths a year are attributed to exposure inside the house.
“However, air pollution control efforts, for the most part, have not dealt with household emissions,” said Guttikunda. “In May 2016, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was launched to provide access to clean cooking energy to poor people. However, to ensure sustained use of LPG by poor households, additional interventions – an Ujjwala 2.0 — is required,” said Guttikunda.