Pollution from coal-burning brick kilns across South Asia is a catastrophic airborne health threat facing tens of millions of people and a global warming burden equivalent to that of all passenger cars in the U.S. Starting in Bangladesh, a novel collaboration among public health experts, industry stakeholders, technology consultants and government agencies is working to improve the industry in a way that brings significant health, environment and social benefits. The initiative will work with kiln owners to incentivize progressive improvements in efficiency, labor conditions and mining of clay–the key ingredient in bricks. We will use satellite monitoring, Stanford research and the unique strengths of Bangladesh-based partner organizations to pinpoint kiln locations, quantify brick kilns’ adverse health effects and provide transparent public information to inform political change. To motivate kiln owners, we plan to facilitate loans for cost-saving technology upgrades that reduce black carbon emissions by more than 80 percent.
News, Media & Publications
“It’s different from a medical model that says let’s wait until they get sick, and treat them in clinic. We need to think like a physician about how we can treat the environment.” - Dr. Stephen Luby, Stanford University
There is almost no direct evidence on the health effects of exposure to air pollution from brick kilns. To fill this gap, we analyze air pollution measurements and study impacts on asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, blood oxygen levels and blood carbon monoxide levels in more than 3,500 people. We compare the difference in outcomes between households that are more and less exposed to kilns.
Brick kilns in Bangladesh are poorly regulated and tracked. We combine remote satellite sensing and deep learning algorithms to produce an objective database of operational kilns. We will use this data to catalyze a discussion among brick kiln owners, government regulators, researchers and civil society. The objective is to motivate progress toward a manufacturing system that generates less environmental and health harm.
“This is about saving people’s lives. Human-generated waste is what’s killing so many people — mostly poor people. It’s preventable.” – Nina Brooks, Stanford University