SJ opens PIC 2015Bio4Energy researcher Stina Jansson (left) opens the 14th International Congress on Combustion By-products and Their Health Effects, at Umeå, Sweden. Photo by Lisa Lundin.Toxic emissions of dioxins and flame retardants in connection with biomass burning and other uses were two much discussed topics at this year's International Congress on Combustion By-products and their Health Effects, including on the conference sidelines, according to a Bio4Energy researcher in charge of PIC 2015.

"We have had a very good conference with high-quality presentations and with a highly engaged audience asking questions and used the coffee breaks to continue discussions", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., conference chair and main organiser of the event in Umeå, in northern Sweden.

"Especially the session on flame retardants and the speech by Åke Bergman [of Swetox and the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology] was very interesting. A representative from IKEA also described how in some countries they have to add flame retardants to their furniture even though they do not want to" because of laws in these countries which mandate it, said Jansson, who is a senior lecturer at Umeå University, with reference to the multinational furniture giant headquartered in Sweden.

While it could seem farfetched to discuss flame retardants—which potentially hormone-disruptive chemicals for many years were applied to furniture and other household inventories to make, say, carpets and couches slow to catch fire in case of a fire incident—at a conference like PIC which has a focus on emissions from combustion, this is not necessarily so.

Today there is a growing community of researchers internationally tasked with making new fuels, with a focus on making use of raw biomass materials, mixed residue or organic waste which are available in large quantities. Jansson's research group on the Bio4Energy Environmental Platform is trying to do just that, trying to find a new use for spent wood and municipal waste rich in biomass.

"We need to get better at using [waste] materials because they are available and try to find suitable areas of use for them. We first need to understand the environmental consequences of doing so. It is important that we are proactive and map… their composition".

And when it came to recycled wood, as that from demolished buildings, "we want to make sure it comes to good use, but we [have to consider the possibility that it contains toxic chemicals] since the house it used to be part of may have been built in the 70's when chemical use was not so well regulated".

Another discussion point at PIC 2015 was the potentially large formation of toxic emission of chlororganic pollutants, such as dioxins, brought about by a new trend spotted in the U.S.A. and elsewhere: The use of non-mechanical agents for the cleaning of chimneys, fireplaces or liquid fuel boilers. Several of these so-called "chimney sweepers" allegedly do a good job of removing soot and similar substances in furnaces or boilers for biomass burning. However, because of their content of mineral salts and, notably, copper they would be certain to spur the formation of dioxins, Jansson said.

"In some cases [the addition of copper salt-containing chimney sweeper] was said to spur massive emissions. Given that [in our research] we spend our time chasing down small amounts of diffuse emissions, it all sounds surreal.

"We are going to check [the extent and veracity of] this and… will be guaranteed to bring it up in the position paper" to be drawn up as an official summary of PIC 2015 and likely submitted to the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

About 100 people attended this year's edition of PIC—the 14th since the start of the congress. Most of the delegates were academics, but there was also attendance also by representatives of industrial partners Agilent Technologies, Cooper Environmental, Exis, Dekati, Tillquist and Umeå Energi.

Several Bio4Energy researchers gave oral presentations at the conference. They are acknowledged as follows:

New Fuels – New Waste Streams

·       Does the Content of Food Waste Influence the Quality of Mixed Fuels Based on Municipal Solid Waste and Biomass? – Mar Edo-Giménez, Stina Jansson, both Bio4Energy Environmental Platform

·       Formation and Distribution of PCDDs, PCFs and PCNs in Solid, Liquid and Gaseous Products of Microwave-assisted Pyrolysis of Woody Biomass – Qiuju Gao, Stina Jansson, both Bio4Energy Environmental Platform

Health Effects of Traffic Exhaust – Focus on Biofuels

·       Cardiovascular and Respiratory Effects of RME Biodiesel Exhaust Exposure – Robin Nyström and Christoffer Boman, Bio4Energy Thermochemical and Environmental Platforms, respectively

Advanced Diagnostics and Measurement Methods

·       Mid-infrared Laser Absorption Spectroscopy for Detection of CO in Combustion Gases and Exhaled Breath – Florian Schmidt, Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform

Health Effects of Solid Biomass Combustion Emissions

·       Reduction in Particulate Emissions of Biomass Combustion by Ash Chemical Measures – Jonathan Fagerström, Christoffer Boman, Bio4Energy Thermochemical and Environmental Platforms, respectively

·       Effects of Experimental Wood Smoke Exposure in Healthy Human Subjects – Robin Nyström, Christoffer Boman, Bio4Energy Thermochemical and Environmental Platforms, respectively