Kerosene Lamps Produce More Black Carbon Which Pollutes Atmospheric Air

Kerosene lamps produce large amount of carbon black, says study

11:15 AM, 30th November 2012
Research On Kerosene Lamps and Black Carbon
Smoke emitted by simple wick lamps was found to be a significant but previously overlooked source of global black carbon. These lamps are used by hundreds of millions of households, and can be replaced by cleaner, affordable alternatives.


BERKELEY, US: The primary source of light for more than a billion people in developing nations is also churning out black carbon at levels previously overlooked in greenhouse gas estimates, according to a new study led by researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois.

Results from field and lab tests found that 7 to 9 per cent of the kerosene in wick lamps, used for light in 250-300 million households without electricity, is converted to black carbon when burned. In comparison, only half of 1 percent of the emissions from burning wood is converted to black carbon.

Factoring in the new study results leads to a twenty fold increase in estimates of black carbon emissions from kerosene-fueled lighting. The previous estimates come from established databases used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others. One kilogram of black carbon, a byproduct of incomplete combustion and an important greenhouse gas, produces as much warming in a month as 700 kilograms of carbon dioxide does over 100 years.

“The orange glow in flames comes from black carbon, so the brighter the glow, the more black carbon is being made. If it’s not burned away, it goes into the atmosphere,” said Tami Bond, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“There are no magic bullets that will solve all of our greenhouse gas problems, but replacing kerosene lamps is low-hanging fruit, and we don’t have many examples of that in the climate world. There are many inexpensive, cleaner alternatives to kerosene lamps that are available now, and few if any barriers to switching to them,” said Kirk Smith, Professor, UC Berkeley.

Smith pointed to lanterns with light-emitting diodes that can be powered by solar cells or even advanced cookstoves that generate electricity from the heat produced. Such technology is already available in developing countries.

The researchers used kerosene lamps purchased in Uganda and Peru and conducted field experiments there to measure the emissions. They repeated the tests in the lab using wicks of varying heights and materials, and kerosene purchased in the United States as well as in Uganda.

The study authors noted that converting to cleaner light sources would not only benefit the planet, it would help improve people’s health. A recent epidemiological study in Nepal led by Smith and other researchers at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, for example, found that women who reported use of kerosene lamps in the home had 9.4 times the rate of tuberculosis compared with those who did not use such lamps.

“Getting rid of kerosene lamps may seem like a small, inconsequential step to take, but when considering the collective impact of hundreds of millions of households, it’s a simple move that affects the planet,” said Nicholas Lam, Graduate Student, UC Berkeley.

© UC Berkeley News




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