Assessing the contribution of black carbon generated by cookstoves across Southern Nepal and Northern India

2011-2012 E²SHI Seed Grant

Research Team

  • Patrick Breysse (Principal Investigator), former Professor, Dept of Environmental Health Sciences

  • James Tielsch, former Professor, Dept of International Health

  • Ben ZaitchikAssociate Professor, Dept of Earth & Planetary Sciences

  • Frank Curriero, Associate Professor, Dept of Epidemiology

  • Sutyajeet Soneja, former Doctoral Student, Dept of Environmental Health Sciences

In South and East Asia, billions of people use traditional cookstoves with biomass (e.g. wood, cow dung, or crop waste), which emit significant amounts of black carbon. Black carbon – also known as soot – results from incomplete combustion of the stove’s biomass fuel and is a component of airborne particulate matter thought to be an important contributor to melting Himalayan glaciers, a crucial freshwater source. Black carbon is considered a short-term climate agent with an average atmospheric residence time on the order of days to weeks, compared to some greenhouse gases that can have an atmospheric residence time of years to centuries. In addition, black carbon deposited on glaciers or Arctic sea or land ice can affect how much light can be reflected on the surfaces, and as a result, accelerates the warming process and increases ice and snow melt. However, accurate cookstove black carbon emission data is limited.

Patrick Breysse and his research team gathered black carbon emission data from cookstoves in South and East Asia to estimate the regional impact of black carbon and estimate its impact on climate change. The collaborative nature of the research project brought together a multidisciplinary team of air pollution scientists, spatial statisticians and climate modelers. Since a large fraction of the world biomass cookstove users are in South Central Asia, this project contributes to worldwide estimates, which are crucial for accurate pollution and climate modeling, as well as providing additional means to estimate the impact of new, clean cookstove technology. In this process, the team assessed the health and environmental benefits that could be realized by reducing these emissions.


Researcher Sutyajeet Soneja discusses the project in "My Research in Nepal."


Soneja, S., Chen C., Tielsch, J.M., Katz, J., Zeger, S.L., Checkley, W., Curriero, F.C., and Breysse, P.N. (2015). Humidity and Gravimetric Equivalency Adjustments for Nephelometer-Based Particulate Matter Measurements of Emissions from Solid Biomass Fuel Use in Cookstoves. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(6), pp. 6400-6416.

Soneja, S., Tielsch, J.M., Curriero, F.C., Zaitchik, B., Khatry, S.K., Yan, B., Chillrud, S.N. and Breysse, P.N. (2015). Determining Particulate Matter and Black Carbon Exfiltration Estimates For Traditional Cookstove Use In Rural Nepalese Village Households. Environmental Science and Technology, 49(9), pp. 5555-5562.

Sutyajeet Soneja set up monitoring units for ambient (outdoor) air sampling.

Nearly all our present ecological problems arise from deep-seated social problems.
— Murray Bookchin