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Jun, 2019

Biomass and The Environment – Energy Explained

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Common Health Risks With Biomass Power Generation

With the increase in population, there is a high demand for power. Thus biomass is being used for the generation of power. There are various health and occupational risks associated with biomass power generation. The various exposure scenarios of biomass power generation are a significant threat to the health of people. The people who work in the biomass power generator unit are likely to be affected by cancer. There are recent types of diagnosis equipment like a PET CT scan which can diagnose the disease with greater precision. Here you would gain a clear understanding of the occupational and health risks associated with biomass power generation.

Potential Occupational Exposure

There are various scenarios in the production of power using biomass power. These exposures result in various risks associated with health. These potential occupational exposures are classified into three categories based on the type of exposure. Check out – the Health Risks Associated with Biomass-Based Power Generation

 Pre-Combustion Exposure

There are potential occupation risks for people working in biomass power generation units. There are risks associated with the processing and handling of biomass. The exposure to deadly gases like carbon-monoxide and volatile organics are of higher risk to the health of the people who deal with biomass. Some of the inorganic gases and oxygenated organics, which are a potential threat before combustion of biomass are Nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, acid aerosols, catechol, acetic acid, methanol, etc. These are significant health hazards in the biomass generation units before the combustion process.

Nuclear power plant during sunset. Dusk landscape with big chimneys.

Combustion Exposure

During the combustion process of the biomass, there is greater exposure to harmful gases and organic substance. The combustion related exposures are wide as there are several pollutants, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile compounds. There is a serious control over the emission rates of harmful gases. 

Post-combustion Exposure

The majority of exposure is during the post-combustion scenario. The biomass after combustion is converted into ash. In large scale biomass power production, large boilers are used for the combustion process. The ash contains contaminants of biomass in the bottom of the bed boilers. The volatile elements are some harmful gases are depleted due to the high temperature of the boilers. The fly ash contains fine material which contains certain volatile elements that condense out in the form of flue gas.

The dust collected in the boiler room is another significant health hazard.

Potential Occupational Risks 

There are several health effects related to the production of power using biomass. The various health risks are listed below. 

Pre-Combustion Risk

Wood dust is a significant cause for health hazard related to biomass power generation. The chipped wood would result in respiratory allergies and other respiratory tract issues. Respiratory symptoms like cough, bronchitis occur in people associated with biomass raw material. There are chances of mold growth in the storage area of wood chips. Lung and urinary tract infection can occur in the pre-combustion scenario. Wood dust is a primary irritant and a major carcinogen which can cause cancer in people working in biomass power generation units. 

Coal-fired power plant lights up the early morning sky on the banks of the river.

Constant dust exposure can result in nasal cancer and asthma symptoms. Volatile organic compounds from biomass can result in irritation of the skin and affect the mucous membranes. The workers of the power generator units were exposed to resin acids, which cause asthma and dermatitis.

There is a higher risk of exposure to carbon monoxide in places where wooden pellets are stored. When the CO levels increase beyond the permitted levels, then it is a dangerous hazard to human lives.

Combustion Risk

There are several potential health risks associated with the combustion of biomass. In modern biomass production plants, there is a higher risk of emission of harmful gases. It is evident that there is a serious impact on the combustion of biomass in cooking and other household activities. Thus indoor biomass combustion can result in chronic pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, and even cancer. 

The above are some of the potential occupation and health risk associated with biomass power generation. 

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