“Smoky” barely describes the harsh conditions in homes with primitive stoves. Imagine having to start a campfire in your kitchen each morning to make breakfast…

Why is this work important: About half of our planet (3 billion people) use some form of a campfire or ‘cookstove’ as their primary source of energy for cooking and heating.  Emissions from such primitive fires have major impacts on global air quality, human health, and climate.  This inefficient but highly prevalent form of combustion releases particulate matter (PM), black carbon (BC), and greenhouse gases (e.g. CO2, CH4) into the air that we breathe, leading to approximately 1.6 million premature deaths per year worldwide.

The goal: This project seeks to characterize the emissions released from biomass cookstoves to improve our understanding of the climate and health implications of biomass cookstove use globally. Once we fully characterize the pollutant emissions from cookstoves, we can develop scalable models that predict such emissions on a global scale.  From there, we can model the costs, benefits, and societal impacts that are expected from switching to cleaner fuels and more efficient stoves worldwide.


Pollution from such fires is complex and harmful over a lifetime of exposure. We are working to characterize these emissions, so that cleaner, more practical solutions can be developed.

The challenge: Given the substantial environmental and health impacts of cookstove use, there have been significant efforts to develop “improved” cookstoves to increase thermal efficiency, reduce pollutant emissions, and/or reduce pollutant exposures.  Although the term “improved” is widely applied, it historically has not been well defined.

Outcomes: Despite numerous well-meaning efforts, successes in the cookstove sector have been limited, partly due to lack of knowledge. In order to have an impact on the world you must know how to prioritize your efforts. The goal of this work is to be understand How Clean is Clean Enough?.

Funding & Partners:

Environmental Protection Agency (RD83543801)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (R01ES023688-02)