Kerosene Lamps are an Important Target for Reducing Indoor Air Pollution and Climate Emissions

A new Briefing Note on SLCPs and Kerosene Lamps by the CCAC Scientific Advisory Panel

A new Briefing Note on SLCPs and Kerosene Lamps by the CCAC Scientific Advisory Panel, released today in parallel with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new Guidelines on Indoor Air Quality – Household Fuel Combustion, highlights the importance of kerosene lighting as target for reducing air pollution and climate emissions as highlighted in a new Briefing Note by the CCAC Scientific Advisory Panel.

Globally, an estimated 250 to 500 million households still rely on fuel-based lamps to supply their basic lighting needs. Kerosene is the predominant fuel used in the fuel-based lamps. Users of kerosene lamps pay a huge price in terms of human wellbeing: in the form of injuries from burns, poisonings of children, insufficient illumination for education of children, and the significant health impacts from household air pollution (HAP).

According to the WHO, kerosene lamps are an important source of HAP, particularly in developing countries. Due to the contribution to HAP, the WHO’s new Guidelines strongly discourage the use of kerosene as a household fuel for lighting, cooking, and heating. An estimated 4.3 million deaths every year from lung cancer, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute lower respiratory disease, and ischaemic heart disease are attributable to HAP emissions. More than three quarters of those deaths (3.31 million) occur in South East Asia and the Western Pacific.

Globally, an estimated 250 to 500 million households still rely on fuel-based lamps to supply their basic lighting needs.

To this long list of adverse consequences, a new major environmental impact of kerosene lighting has been identified. It is also a major source of household and ambient black carbon (BC) emissions in developing countries (about 6% of currently estimated anthropogenic total BC emissions). More importantly, a 2012 study shows that burning of kerosene in lamps leads to emissions of almost pure BC (without the co-emitted cooling organic carbon particles), thus making particulate matter emissions from kerosene a very efficient absorber of solar radiation and a major contributor to regional positive climate forcing (warming). The CO2 produced from burning kerosene also causes positive climate forcing.

“Kerosene lamps are an important target for reducing harmful indoor air pollution and short-lived climate pollutant emissions,” noted Helena Molin Valdes, Head, Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat. “The positive side of the kerosene lamp story is that off-the-shelf, cost effective and scalable technologies are available which can eliminate their use, resulting in multiple co-benefits to human health, livelihoods, and climate.”

Solar or solar-hybrid solutions, ranging from individual solar lanterns, home-based PV solar systems or mini-grids, and using efficient LED lights, offer the most expedient, efficient, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to bring 1.3 billion or more people using kerosene lamps into the modern era with respect to illumination inside homes.

“We have concluded that no other major BC source has such a combination of readily available alternatives and definitive climate forcing effects,” stated Drew Shindell, Professor of Climate Science at Duke University, and chair of the CCAC Scientific Advisory Panel. “Given the large economic, development and environmental benefits associated with emissions reductions, replacement of kerosene-fueled wick lamps with fluorescent bulbs or LEDs serviced by low-carbon grid-based electricity or off-grid photovoltaics deserves strong consideration for programs that target short-lived climate pollutants.”

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