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Caroline Dutton

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  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that exposure to smoke from the simple act of cooking is the fifth worst risk factor for disease in developing countries, and causes almost two million premature deaths per year – exceeding deaths attributable to malaria or tuberculosis.
  • Women in developing countries are also at risk of head and spinal injuries, pregnancy complications, and maternal mortality from the strenuous task of carrying heavy loads of firewood or other fuels. Frequent exposure to cookstove smoke can also cause disabling health impacts like cataracts, which affect women more than men, and is the leading cause of blindness in developing countries.
  • Rudimentary wood-fired cookstoves and open fires emit fine particles, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants at levels up to 100 times higher than the recommended limits set by WHO
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  • A randomized-control study in Guatemala led by the University of California, Berkeley, found that halving exposure to indoor air pollution with a chimney stove brought about a reduction in severe pneumonia, and that larger reductions in exposure had more pronounced effects. A systematic review of all available studies on the link between solid fuel use and child pneumonia has found an almost doubling of risk for those exposed.
  • Nearly all of the existing evidence is based on observational studies that compare groups using open fires and traditional cookstoves with those using cleaner fuels, with very little being directly obtained from studies that directly measure the effects of interventions.
  • While the link between exposure to cookstove smoke and a wide range of health problems such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer is well established, the current body of evidence linking cookstoves with other potentially important health effects is compelling but less documented
  • Burns from open fires and unsafe cookstoves are another insidious risk faced by poor households dependent on kerosene, open fires, and unstable metal or clay cookstoves, contributing to a substantial percentage of the estimated 300,000 burn deaths that occur annually
  • More evidence is needed to demonstrate that the levels of exposure reduction delivered by clean cookstove and fuels will result in declines in related illnesses and deaths.
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    This is the Global alliance for Clean Cookstoves website. They offer much information about the issues surrounding the topic and their action plan for affecting change!
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