A scoping review of interventions targeting small-scale, individual-initiated burning practices

Sofia M. Ryan, Hannah C. Marker, Kimiko Van Wickle, Peter J. Winch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Ambient outdoor air pollution has been identified as a key risk factor for adverse health outcomes and mortality, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Small-scale, individual-initiated burning activities are significant contributors to local pollutant emissions but are not well studied. We identified articles that describe small-scale burning interventions in order to characterize current trends, implementation science perspectives, and gaps in the literature. Methods: We conducted a global search of interventions to reduce ambient air pollution, and then conducted a keyword search among these articles to identify literature regarding interventions to reduce individual-initiated burning. We categorized these articles based on whether burning was discussed as an explicit focus or incidental finding and conducted a full-text analysis. We conducted a supplementary review on anthropological aspects of burning behaviors and burning interventions not captured in our review to inform future recommendations. Results: Ten articles describing interventions for small-scale, individual-initiated burning were identified. Four articles examined burning as an explicit focus and six discussed burning as an incidental finding. China was the country most represented in our review. All but one of the articles discussed emissions-related outcomes, while only one article discussed health outcomes. Four articles explored factors affecting implementation of interventions and regulations, but none included implementation as a primary objective. The supplementary review revealed a large amount of literature about burning in the context of spiritual and agricultural practices. However, less is known about everyday burning behaviors, such as trash burning and household burning, as well as reasons why people burn. Conclusion: There is a paucity of research that explicitly discusses interventions for small scale, individual-initiated burning practices. Gaps remain in interventions in LMICs most affected by individual-initiated burning, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the current literature does not analyze factors affecting effectiveness of interventions and regulations and does not clearly identify reasons why people choose to burn. More research is needed on how to effectively implement interventions to reduce individual-initiated burning, as well as to target key geographic regions and burning sources that continue to be neglected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110794
JournalEnvironmental research
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Air quality
  • Ambient air pollution
  • Burning
  • Implementation science
  • LMICs
  • Small-scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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