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Flashlights in Kenya : revealing the social, economic, health and environmental implications in the absence of quality assurance

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Title: Flashlights in Kenya : revealing the social, economic, health and environmental implications in the absence of quality assurance
Author: Tracy, Jennifer
Abstract: For the 1.6 billion people in the world who lack access to electricity, the flashlight serves as a simple but important lighting device. In contrast to traditional incandescent flashlights, incorporating light emitting diode (LED) technology into flashlights presents a potentially less polluting, more efficient and cost-effective alternative lighting source. To avoid market spoiling as LED technology is introduced into off-grid lighting markets it is essential that quality be assured. This study addresses the quality of flashlights available to low-income flashlight users in Kenya. Lab-based performance testing of three commonly used models shows that flashlights perform substantially below rated specifications. Models tested had battery capacities that were 50% below rated levels and required up to 25% more time to charge the battery than advertised. Frequent users of flashlights expressed high levels of dissatisfaction with available flashlights; 87% reported having problems with their flashlight in the last six months. Failed LEDs (23%), water leakage (21%), and batteries no longer keeping their charge (16%) were among the most common problems. The median reported lifespan of a flashlight was two months. Users interviewed indicated that the cost of flashlight ownership absorbed up to 7.4% of their annual income. In addition, the potential health and environmental risks associated with flashlight use are substantial. Estimates indicate that more than 700,000 kg of lead are discarded and over 30,000 m3 of waste are produced annually from the use of low quality flashlights in Kenya. Scenarios illustrating the impact of marketing an affordable, improved quality flashlight indicate a potential 80% reduction of waste and lead disposal and up to a 65% cost-savings for flashlight users. Results obtained from this study are useful for creating a framework for quality assurance of low-cost flashlights products, helping to reduce the social, economic, health and environmental implications of low-cost flashlights in Kenya and elsewhere around the world.
Description: Thesis (M.S.)--Humboldt State University, Environmental Systems, Energy, Environment and Society, 2010
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2148/594
Date: 2010-05

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  • Masters Theses [874]
    A collection of selected Masters Theses in electronic format.

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