The Peril Of Yak Poop

by Dish Staff


Eric Holthaus explains:

Yak dung, when used as fuel, is arguably dirtier than coal but is definitely much cheaper. Particulate pollution from burning animal dung greatly increases the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory ailments, the occurrence of which can be slowed by switching to cleaner ways of heating homes. …

A new paper accepted for publication in the journal Atmospheric Environment provides some of the first quantitative data on both black carbon and indoor air pollution during the cool season in Tibet. Via air samples and a survey of households in the Nam Co region of Tibet—the name means “heavenly lake”—researcher Eri Saikawa and her team learned things were even worse than they suspected. Her survey admittedly had a small sample—just 23 households responded—but is nevertheless illuminating.

A majority of residents had access to improved cookstoves, even solar power, but yet every single respondent still used yak dung for heating. Saikawa explains this by noting that average annual income per household is just $890 a year. Yak dung is simply the cheapest fuel available.

Previous Dish on poo-based energy here and here.

(Photo by Lyle Vincent)