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Understanding air pollution from biomass burners used for heating

Date:
February 4, 2015
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
As many places in the US and Europe increasingly turn to biomass rather than fossil fuels for power and heat, scientists are focusing on what this trend might mean for air quality -- and people's health. One such study on wood-chip burners' particulate emissions, which can cause heart and lung problems. The scientists say the findings could help manufacturers reduce the negative impact of this fuel in the future.
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As many places in the U.S. and Europe increasingly turn to biomass rather than fossil fuels for power and heat, scientists are focusing on what this trend might mean for air quality -- and people's health. One such study on wood-chip burners' particulate emissions, which can cause heart and lung problems, appears in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels. The scientists say the findings could help manufacturers reduce the negative impact of this fuel in the future.

Aki Kortelainen and colleagues note that in Europe, burning wood for heat is one of the biggest sources of fine particulate emissions, contributing about the same amount of these tiny bits of pollution to the air as vehicles on a busy street. All totaled, these emissions -- which have been linked to irregular heartbeats, breathing problems and nonfatal heart attacks -- are associated with 350,000 premature deaths every year across Europe. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a 10 percent reduction in these particles of dust, soot and smoke could save at least 13,000 lives annually. With the rise in wood chip burners, Kortelainen's team wanted to better understand the technology's potential impacts on pollution and health.

The researchers measured fine particulate emissions from a wood-chip burner and found that emissions varied as the fuel went through different stages of combustion. They conclude that emissions can be reduced if burning efficiency can be maintained at a high level. The finding, they say, could help the industry design units that are less polluting and less harmful to people.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence program and ERA-NET Bioenergy BioHealth project.


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Materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Aki Kortelainen, Jorma Joutsensaari, Liqing Hao, Jani Leskinen, Petri Tiitta, Antti Jaatinen, Pasi Miettinen, Olli Sippula, Tiina Torvela, Jarkko Tissari, Jorma Jokiniemi, Douglas R. Worsnop, James N. Smith, Ari Laaksonen, Annele Virtanen. Real-Time Chemical Composition Analysis of Particulate Emissions from Woodchip Combustion. Energy & Fuels, 2015; 150130092741005 DOI: 10.1021/ef5019548

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Understanding air pollution from biomass burners used for heating." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150204102645.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2015, February 4). Understanding air pollution from biomass burners used for heating. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150204102645.htm
American Chemical Society. "Understanding air pollution from biomass burners used for heating." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150204102645.htm (accessed May 24, 2017).

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