Nav: Home

Crop residue burning is a major contributor to air pollution in South Asia

February 27, 2019

While fossil fuel emissions in New Delhi account for 80 percent of the air pollution plume during the summer, emissions from biomass burning (such as crop residue burning) in neighboring regions rival those from fossil fuels during the fall and winter.

"Black carbon aerosols are damaging to human health and their levels are higher in New Delhi than in many other megacities. During fall and winter, the levels of polluting air particles in New Delhi can reach ten times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization. To determine the environmental effects of black carbon in this highly populated city, it is crucial to quantify the contributions from the key emissions sources," says August Andersson, Researcher at the Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry (ACES), Stockholm University and co-author of the study.

The researchers collected air samples from New Delhi during 2011 and analyzed their black carbon content by creating carbon isotope signature profiles of each of the samples to identify the source of the particles. Different sources of carbon give their own unique isotopic fingerprints. When they compared the relative amounts of the black carbon particles from the different sources over the course of a year they discovered a strong seasonal variation. The relative contribution from fossil fuel combustion peaked during rainy summers and the contribution from biomass burning (for example wood and straw burning) peaked during the dry fall and winter months. In addition, the scientists found that the sources of the high biomass emissions were regional rather than local and urban, for example, burning of residual crops by farmers living approximately 200 km away from New Delhi. In India, crop residue burning occurs after harvest, which typically occurs in October/November for wheat, and in April/May for rice.

"Our findings contradict the widespread notion that the emission flux between cities and the countryside is mainly one-way. No other study has conclusively reported such high amounts of black carbon from biomass burning in the middle of a megacity, where the main source is expected to be traffic. The wintertime regional influx of black carbon into New Delhi suggests that to efficiently combat severe air pollution, it is necessary to not only mitigate the urban emissions, but also regional-scale biomass emissions, including agricultural crop residue burning," says August Andersson. He continues: "Air pollution in the Indo-Gangetic region, which includes eastern Pakistan, northern India and Bangladesh, is a regional problem, potentially affecting nearly 1 billion people."
-end-
Contact information

August Andersson, co-author
Tel: +46 (0) 727 078 984
E-mail: august.andersson@aces.su.se

Örjan Gustafsson, co-author
Tel: +46 (0) 703 247 317
E-mail: orjan.gustafsson@aces.su.se

Stockholm University

Related Air Pollution Articles:

Combatting air pollution with nature
Air pollution is composed of particles and gases that can have negative impacts on both the environment and human health.
Nature might be better than tech at reducing air pollution
Adding plants and trees to the landscapes near factories and other pollution sources could reduce air pollution by an average of 27 percent, new research suggests.
Aspirin may prevent air pollution harms
A new study is the first to report evidence that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin may lessen the adverse effects of air pollution exposure on lung function.
Curbing indoor air pollution in India
Clean cooking energy transitions are extremely challenging to achieve, but they offer enormous potential health, environmental, and societal benefits.
Exposure to air pollution in India is associated with more hypertension in women
The CHAI project assessed the link between fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon and blood pressure in over 5,500 people living in a peri-urban area near Hyderabad city
Study finds link between hypertension and air pollution
A new study soon to appear in the Faculty of Public Health's Journal of Public Health, published by Oxford University Press, suggests that air pollution and living in apartment buildings may be associated with an increased risk for dangerous conditions like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Study sheds new light on the harms of air pollution
A new University at Buffalo study based on levels before, during and after the Beijing Olympics reveals how air pollution affects the human body at the level of metabolites.
Severe air pollution can cause birth defects, deaths
In a comprehensive study, researchers from Texas A&M University have determined that harmful particulate matter in the atmosphere can produce birth defects and even fatalities during pregnancy using the animal model.
A new view of wintertime air pollution
The team's unexpected finding suggests that in the US West and elsewhere, certain efforts to reduce harmful wintertime air pollution could backfire.
Study examines indoor exposure to air pollution
In an Indoor Air study conducted in a suburb of the city of Kuopio, Finland, relatively short-lasting wood and candle burning of a few hours increased residents' daily exposure to potentially hazardous particulate air pollution.
More Air Pollution News and Air Pollution Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.