Garbage incinerator in Greenland. Photo: iStock / olli0815
Garbage incinerator in Greenland. Photo: iStock / olli0815 © iStock

Community-based black carbon and public health assessment

Assessing and mitigating the risks of black carbon to public health.

Phase 1 of the Community-based black carbon and public health assessment project produced a Desk Study, completed in late 2018. Based on consultations with key community members, officials and experts, and reviewing relevant publications, the Desk Study provides a foundation for: 1) gathering data already available on the sources of black carbon emissions to be assessed during the field missions; 2) reviewing relevant traditional knowledge; 3) establishing the methodology to be used for gathering emissions data, understanding public health impacts and assessing local capacity needs; 4) building capacity of the selected communities and relevant institutions; and 5) reviewing legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks.

The pilot phase of the project aims to demonstrate methods of preventing and mitigating black carbon emissions while also protecting public health.

Black carbon (BC) has been found to be a fast-acting climate forcer that is causing climate change while impacting local public health. Although the Arctic suffers from airborne BC transported from thousands of kilometers away, it is also a region in which BC is emitted, principally from domestic heating, including diesel, wood and coal combustion; on and off-road transportation; electrical power generation and biomass burning (agricultural burning, solid waste burning, forest burning and wildfires). With emissions from Arctic states accounting for approximately one-third of Arctic black carbon warming, opportunities exist to control pollution sources and deliver rapid benefits to air quality, ecosystems, the climate and public health.

Limited assessments of local black carbon emissions or the risks to public health that these emissions are posing in the Arctic context have been performed. At the same time, local communities generally lack the capacity to make detailed assessments of black carbon emissions, their public health impacts and mitigation options.

The project was developed to assess local sources of black carbon emissions from a number of Alaskan, Russian and Saami villages. The project objectives are:

1) to establish community environmental hubs that will increase local capacity to identify and mitigate black carbon/PM 2.5 and related health risks;

2) to identify air pollution and short-lived climate forcing caused by black carbon emissions;

3) to identify public health threats to local and indigenous Arctic communities;

4) to work with communities to develop actionable, fundable black carbon and public health risk mitigation plans;

5) to facilitate community linkages with technical experts, government authorities and other decision makers, funders or organizations able to support implementation of action plans mitigation strategies and activities.

Expected project activities include:

Community environmental hubs:

  • Training: Hire and train local community black carbon coordinators regarding short and long-term project objectives; support for/administration of community questionnaires; use and maintenance of black carbon monitoring devices.
  • Creating linkages: Identify gaps in environmental/environmental health capacities.

Data collection:

  • Field visits: If practicable, plan and conduct two COVID-appropriate field visits (summer and winter). Share knowledge about air pollution. public health and best practices for prevention and mitigation. Note: At present, field visits remain viable within Russia and Alaska. The project team will monitor developments closely to ensure that the health and safety of communities and project participants is given the highest priority.
  • Air monitoring: Install black carbon and PM2.5 monitoring devices in each target village. Monitor and study local sources of BC and PM2.5 concentrations for one year.
  • Public health: Gather available public health data and establish indoor air monitoring sites in each village. Complete design and peer review of community questionnaire, and administer questionnaire to residents in each of the five communities.
  • Map tool: Develop web site with GIS map tool to track and communicate geo-referenced results to the communities and other stakeholders.


  • Model black carbon and PM2.5 concentrations;
  • Characterize associated risks to public health;
  • Develop preliminary findings and organize technical peer consultations;
  • Finalize air monitoring and public health findings;
  • Identify opportunities to strengthen local environmental capacities.

Communication and Outreach

Project details

Lead Working Groups
Start - End
2016 -

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