'Wick lamps account for huge carbon levels'

Wick lamps account for huge carbon levelsWick lamps account for huge carbon levels

Kerosene lamps - important source of light for more than a billion people in developing nations like India - churn out black carbon at high levels, a new study has found.

Researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois, found that 7 to 9 per cent of the kerosene in wick lamps used for light in 250-300 million households without

electricity is converted to black carbon when burned, at levels previously overlooked in greenhouse gas estimates.

In comparison, only half of 1 per cent of the emissions from burning wood is converted to black carbon.

Researchers found that there is a twenty-fold increase in estimates of black carbon emissions from kerosene-fuelled lighting.

Previous estimates come from established databases used by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change and others.

One kilogramme of black carbon, a by-product of incomplete combustion and an important greenhouse gas, produces as much warming in a month as 700 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide does over 100 years, researchers said.

"The orange glow in flames comes from black carbon, so the brighter the glow, the more black carbon is being made," said study principal investigator Tami Bond.

"If it's not burned away, it goes into the atmosphere," Bond said in a statement.

The findings, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, are coming out at the same time that the United Nations Climate Change Conference kicks off in Doha, Qatar.

While officials from around the world are seeking effective policies and guidelines for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers note that the simple act of replacing kerosene lamps could pack a wallop toward that effort.

"There are many inexpensive, cleaner alternatives to kerosene lamps that are available now, and few if any barriers to switching to them," said Smith.

A recent epidemiological study in Nepal led by Smith and other researchers found that women who reported use of kerosene lamps in the home had 9.4 times the rate of tuberculosis compared with those who did not use such lamps.

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