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  Emissions of Organic Air Toxics From Open Burning (62 pp, 1.8 MB) (EPA/600/R-02/076) October 2002
Project Summary

In terms of mass pollutant per mass fuel (emission factor), emissions from open burning are greater than those from well-controlled combustion sources. Some types of open burning (e.g., biomass) are large sources, globally speaking, in comparison to other types (e.g., mobile and industrial sources).

A detailed literature search was performed to collect and collate available data reporting emissions of organic air toxics from open burning sources. Availability of data varied according to the source and the class of air toxics of interest. Volatile organic compound (VOC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) data were available for many of the sources. Non-PAH semivolatile organic compound (SVOC) data were available for several sources. Carbonyl and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofuran (PCDD/F) data were available for only a few sources. There were several sources for which no emissions data were available at all.

Several observations were made:

  • Biomass open burning sources typically emitted fewer VOCs than open burning sources with anthropogenic fuels, particularly those where polymers were concerned.
  • Biomass open burning sources typically emitted fewer SVOCs and PAHs than anthropogenic sources. Burning pools of crude oil and diesel fuel produced significant amounts of PAHs relative to other types of open burning. PAH emissions were highest when combustion of polymers was taking place.
  • Biomass open burning sources typically produced higher levels of carbonyls than anthropogenic sources, probably due to oxygenated structures resulting from thermal decomposition of cellulose. Note that data were very limited and local burn conditions could significantly change these relative levels.
  • PCDD/F emissions varied greatly from source to source and exhibited significant variations within source categories. Although again, data were very limited, this high degree of variation is likely due to a combination of factors, including fuel composition, fuel heating value, bulk density, oxygen transport, and combustion conditions. The variation highlights the importance of having acceptable test data for PCDD/F emissions from open burning so that contributions of sources to the overall PCDD/F emissions inventory can be better quantified.


Paul M. Lemieux

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