Environmental Management

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 61–74 | Cite as

Biomass combustion and indoor air pollution: the bright and dark sides of small is beautiful

  • Kirk R. Smith


About half the world's households cook and/or heat daily with biomass fuels. At small scale, biomass combustion releases significant amounts of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons, the latter with significant concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Preliminary measurements in kitchens of developing-country villages have established airborne concentrations of these healthdamaging pollutants that are orders of magnitude above urban levels or relevant standards. Particle size measurements and dose calculations lead to significant concerns about potential health hazards. The few epidemiological studies are consistent with such effects although more work is clearly needed. These findings may have significant implications for the planning of rural energy development in a number of countries. In particular, they may relate directly to the question of the optimum balance between centralized and decentralized systems.

Key words

Biomass fuels Air pollution Developing countries Environmental health Optimum scale of development 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kirk R. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.East-West CenterResource Systems InstituteHonoluluUSA

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