Household Air Pollution in a Changing Tibet: A Mixed Methods Ethnography and Indoor Air Quality Measurements

  • Steve Sclar
  • Eri SaikawaEmail author


Household air pollution (HAP) is considered to be one of the largest environmental health risks in the world, being responsible each year for ~4.3 million deaths globally and 420,000 in China. Tibetan regions of China are known for pristine ambient air but several recent studies have concluded that the indoor air quality in Tibetan homes is compromised. Tibet is changing rapidly and this study sought to holistically understand HAP in relation to these changes. We took 28 measurements of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon (BC) concentrations in a variety of Tibetan dwellings in the Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. A semi-structured interview and ethnographic participant-observation were also administered with residents to better understand household behaviors and awareness of HAP. The highest concentrations of PM2.5 and BC were found in the traditional yak hair tent, but nomads living in plastic tarp tents with improved stoves and stovepipes also had very compromised indoor air quality. All of the nomads in this study said they would prefer to use a fuel other than yak dung. More nomads expressed concern about their local glacier melting due to climate change than HAP, and indoor trash burning was seen at all sites. This study suggests that raising awareness of health and climate impacts due to HAP, in addition to having a better dialogue among the stakeholders and the residents in Tibet, is essential for obtaining better indoor air quality in the region.


Household Air Pollution Tibet Health Particulate Matter Black Carbon Exposure 



This study was funded by the Emory Global Health Institute. We are grateful to Tony Ward and Emily Weiler for lending us their DustTrak for measurements in Golog.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

267_2019_1194_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (44 kb)
Supplementary Information.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health, Rollins School of Public HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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