According to new quantitative research findings, particulate emissions from cookstoves in India have been underestimated. Researchers spent 20 days running a series of tests in Raipur, a city in central India, where more than three-quarters of the families use cookstoves to prepare their meals. Cookstoves are a central part of millions of homes throughout Asia: Families often use readily available and cheap biofuels — such as crop chaff or dung — to prepare the food needed to survive. Previously, numerous research groups worldwide have shown, mostly based on laboratory experiments, smoke emitted from stoves used for both cooking and heating have a definite, detrimental environmental impact, particularly in India. The researchers burned a wide variety of biofuels acquired from different parts of India, cooked different meals in a number of varying ventilation situations, then recorded the resulting emission levels using high-tech particle measurement devices. Once the data was crunched back in St. Louis, the results were startling: In some cases, more than twice the emission levels were detected when compared to the previous lab findings. Despite advances in technology, many people are reluctant or unable to adopt the newer, cleaner cookstoves.
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