2014 Progress Report: Improving Air Quality, Health and the Environment Through Household Energy Interventions in the Tibetan Plateau

EPA Grant Number: R835422
Title: Improving Air Quality, Health and the Environment Through Household Energy Interventions in the Tibetan Plateau
Investigators: Baumgartner, Jill , Ezzati, Majid , Paradis, Gilles , Schauer, James J. , Wiedinmyer, Christine , Yang, Xudong
Institution: University of Minnesota , McGill University , National Center for Atmospheric Research , Tsinghua University , University of Wisconsin - Madison
EPA Project Officer: Keating, Terry
Project Period: September 1, 2013 through August 31, 2016 (Extended to August 31, 2018)
Project Period Covered by this Report: September 1, 2013 through August 31,2014
Project Amount: $1,489,361
RFA: Measurements and Modeling for Quantifying Air Quality and Climatic Impacts of Residential Biomass or Coal Combustion for Cooking, Heating, and Lighting (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , Global Climate Change , Tribal Environmental Health Research , Climate Change , Air


The overall objective of this research is to develop tools to quantify the benefits of interventions for household use of solid fuels on air quality, climate change mitigation and human health and to demonstrate these tools to a novel energy innovation program in the Tibetan Plateau. This goal will be achieved by integrating emissions and exposure measurements with a Chinese government sponsored solid fuel intervention program that addresses cookstoves, heating stoves, and residential fuel, and applying these measurements to regional climate models and a health intervention study to quantify health and climate mitigation benefits of the intervention. The study will demonstrate a framework to quantify the benefits of real world interventions and policies aimed at reducing household solid fuel emissions. The project will leverage an existing intervention program led by Tsinghua University to replace traditional fuels and stoves in over 200 rural homes in the Tibetan Plateau. The project will integrate expertise of the project team members to quantify the reduction in emissions and exposures and cardiovascular impacts of the intervention, and to estimate the impact of larger scale interventions on regional climate. The study results and their interpretation will be disseminated to policy makers and other relevant environmental and public health stakeholder groups. 

Progress Summary:

The following sections describe the ongoing research activities for an energy package intervention study that were conducted during the first year of grant activities by the University of Minnesota, Tsinghua University, McGill University, the UW-Madison and NCAR. The current progress focuses on rural energy technology testing and development, baseline data collection of air pollution and health measurements for climate and health models, laboratory analysis of air pollution samples, and the initial development of emissions and climate models. Baseline measurements of air pollution and health were conducted in both the winter and summer at our field site in the Tibetan Plateau. Specifically, the following research tasks have been conducted: (1) Obtained required ethical approvals, hired postdoctoral fellows in the U.S. and China, and finalized data collection protocols and standard operation procedures (SOPs) for all study measurements; (2) Field tested improved stove and fuel technologies in the Tibetan Plateau with qualitative and quantitative assessment of appropriateness to meet household preferences, followed by design changes; (3) Set up an air pollution laboratory at the field site and hired/trained a project manager and 4 local field staff to conduct study measurements; (4) Enrolled 201 participants from 10 natural villages (4 administrative villages) in Beichuan, Sichuan to participate in the study; (5) Collected baseline environmental data (e.g., using traditional stoves/fuels) in summer, with initial summaries of results; (6) Analyzed summer air pollution samples including PM2.5 mass, black carbon, elemental carbon, organic carbon, NOx, and other gases along with with initial summaries of results; and (7) Collected sociodemographic, health, and biomarker data for study participants in summer (baseline), with initial summaries of results. Details of about research tasks are provided in the following section. 
Ethical approvals, hiring trainees, and development of research protocols
We obtained all required ethical approvals in the U.S. (EPA, UMN, UW-Madison), Canada (McGill), and China (Tsinghua University) to conduct this study. We recruited and hired two postdoctoral fellows (University of Minnesota and Tsinghua University) and three graduate students (McGill University, UW-Madison, Tsinghua University) to work on this study. Recruitment of a postdoctoral fellow to work on climate modeling (NCAR) is underway. Together, the team developed the standard operating procedures and quality assurance / quality control (QA/QC) protocols for data collection and data management. A tracking system was also initiated for all equipment, air pollution samples, and biological specimens that are transported from the field site to laboratories in Beijing and Madison, Wisconsin. 
Field testing of new gasifier cookstoves and biomass pellet fuel
All of the homes in our study use traditional chimney stoves that burn wood and biomass for cooking. The planned household energy package intervention (semi-gasifier cookstove + pelletized biomass fuel) has been developed by Tsinghua University and will be implemented as part of a national energy demonstration project, supported by the Chinese government. As part of an ongoing effort to assess the appropriateness of this household energy package in meeting the cooking needs of rural Chinese populations, we obtained a small grant ($5,000; MITACS Globalink) to field test third generation prototypes of our stove/fuel intervention in two homes at our field site. We assessed family’s use of the new stove and other kitchen stoves (i.e., traditional wood stove, LPG stove, electric hot plate) by placing small temperature sensors (stove use monitors, SUMs) on all kitchen stoves for 7 days at 5-weeks post-implementation. The SUMs data enabled us to assess if and to what extent the families integrated the new gasifier stoves and processed biomass fuel into daily cooking patterns. Mandarin-speaking students from Tsinghua and McGill University also conducted 30-minute structured interviews with cooks at 1 week and 5 weeks post-stove implementation to identify the desirable and less-desirable features of the new stoves and to understand what factors influenced stove usage. User preferences and dislikes along with any stove breakage or stove maintenance problems were carefully documented so that changes could be made to the stove design and/or materials prior to stove implementation in summer, 2015. 
Establishing an environmental laboratory and training staff in the Tibetan Plateau
Handling and storage of our environmental and biological samples and equipment maintenance requires a clean and safe laboratory space. We established a basic laboratory facility at our rural field site that is used to store project equipment and supplies, handle teflon and quartz filters prior to and after deployment in the field, standardize gas sensors using calibration gases, maintain and repair equipment, and properly store all environmental and biological samples prior to analysis. The laboratory space facilitates our ability to conduct high-quality environmental and health measurements in our study. It includes storage containers and shelves for equipment and supplies, equipment charging stations, calibration gases, a clean filter handling station, locked storage to secure forms and data, biohazard disposal, and a -30 freezer with a back-up generator in case of electricity outages. It is also equipped with several PCs for running equipment, data downloading, and real-time QA/QC, in addition to internet access for daily data uploading to a secure website. 
A project manager (BS Engineering) and 4 local field staff were hired and trained to conduct all of the environmental and health measurements in our study, in accordance with study protocols.
The full project team has bi-monthly conference calls with weekly calls among smaller groups of investigators. In addition to the 5 person field team who is based at the project site full-time during data collection periods, other project investigators (Baumgartner and Carter) made regular visits to the project site to observe field operations and inform key decisions about data collection related to air quality and climate modeling. Co-PIs Yang and Wiedinmyer also conducted visits to the field site. 
Participant enrollment 
We enrolled 201 women in 201 homes and in 10 natural villages (4 administrative villages) to participate in the study. Women were eligible to participate in the study if they lived in the study villages, currently cooked with biomass (wood and/or crop residues) in traditional chimney stoves as a primary or secondary fuel and cooking stove, were neither current nor previous smokers, and were not pregnant at the time of enrolment. Among eligible women, our participation rate was ~75%. Most declines to participate were due to farming schedules. 
Air pollution measurements 
PM mass and black carbon 
Simultaneous measurements of 48-hr real-time and time-integrated (filter-based) PM2.5 concentrations were carried out in villages (ambient) and in the kitchens of study homes using side-by-side located TSI DustTrak monitors and gravimetric samplers in China. PM mass was collected on Teflon filters and, in a subset of 57 homes (~28%), quartz filters. The Teflon filters were weighed for mass at pre- and post-PM measurement at the University of Wisconsin- Madison using a microbalance. 
We also measured 48-hr personal exposure to PM2.5 in summer among all of our 201 study participants. In a subset of 7 women, we measured their exposure for 144-hrs to assess day-today variability in exposure in the summer season. The filters will be analyzed for BC and a variety of trace organics that will be used in source apportionment estimates. Also, a fraction of the samples will be re-aerosolized to determine the optical properties of the light-absorbing fraction. 
Elemental/organic carbon and gases 
In 57 homes (a 28% subsample), we also collected PM2.5 mass on quartz filters. These measurements were conducted side-by-side with the PM2.5 mass measurements on Teflon filters. which will be extracted and analyzed for elemental and organic carbon to determine the relative contributions of BC to the light absorption budget. The estimated light absorption will be directly compared with measurements of BC on the Teflon filters that were collected over the same time periods. We will conduct a multiple linear regression data analysis to determine woodsmoke source specific linear slope loading correction as a function of the total attenuation based on the black carbon from the Teflon filters, as we have done in previous studies of ambient air pollution. 
Integrated 48-hr household carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) concentrations were measured in 47 and 45 households, respectively, using a passive diffusion method. Additionally, electrochemical and infrared sensors recorded real-time household concentrations of CO, NOx (NO/NO2), total volatile organic carbon (TVOC), and carbon dioxide (CO2) in approximately 175 households. 


Future Activities:

The collection of baseline environmental and health data and laboratory analysis of the air pollution samples will continue in the winter season, beginning in late November and ending before the start of the Chinese New Year in February, 2015. Once the two seasons of baseline measurements are complete, our priority is to process and analyze these data and then the publish results. In Project Year 2, we anticipate publishing peer-reviewed articles that focus on energy package development and testing as well as analysis of baseline air pollution exposures and kitchen/ambient concentrations in the Tibetan Plateau, modeling of emissions from cooking and heating and its climate/health impacts in China, and cross-sectional evaluation of the relationship between air pollution exposures and cardiovascular markers. In addition to continuing our full team conference calls and weekly smaller group calls, we plan to hold a 2-day team meeting in Beijing in winter 2014 that will include presentations and discussions with all study investigators, trainees, and field staff members in Project Year 2. The focus of laboratory analyses in Project Year 2 will be the optical characterization of the organic matter associated with coal combustion and biomass combustion from biomass burning in China. 

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 33 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Air quality, biomass, black carbon, China, energy use, environmental chemistry, exposure, household air pollution, human health, interventions, particulates, regional climate 

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2015 Progress Report
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2017 Progress Report
  • Final