Health, Environmental, and Climate Impacts of Household Energy Choices in India
Biomass burning for cooking in underdeveloped countries can negatively affect at least three kinds of
outcomes: the health of cooks and their families (because of indoor air pollution), the quality of local
forests from where the wood is collected, and the global climate (because of black carbon emissions).
However, there is scarce data from rigorously conducted empirical studies to support the promotion of
new household energy technologies to deliver triple benefits to health and livelihood, the environment,
and climate. We report on the progress made on a rigorous study of the impacts of biogas technology.
Using pilot funding by Duke's Problem-Focused Interdisciplinary Research-Scholarship Teams (PFIRST)
program, we have completed the first phase of this research comprised of two sub-phases: (1) socioeconomic
surveys of 500 households from 4 different strata of potential exposure to ambient and
indoor air pollution, and (2) measurement of indoor air pollution, outdoor air pollution, and objective
health (lung function and blood pressure) in a subset of 100 households.
This project will expand our research to (a) conduct a pilot social intervention to sustain biogas use and thereby maintain our cohort, and (b) collect additional health parameters (e.g., pulse oximetry) and biological materials (e.g., buccal
swabs and urine) to evaluate host genetics as well as markers of oxidative stress from the primary cooks
in the same 100 households. This second phase of research will allow us to begin to characterize the
mechanisms and nature of health damage and to propose interventions that will deliver the triple
benefits. This project provides an opportunity to a multi-disciplinary team from across the campus to
work as a team, develop international partnerships, and lay the foundation for future proposals that will
enable the development of a vibrant research program on the critical issue of energy poverty and access
in the 21st century.