| Boiling Point No. 34 - September 1994 |
Wood and other forms of biomass are the main cooking fuels for about half the world's population, and will remain so for at least the next few decades. In most parts of the developing world they are burned in open fires or inefficient stoves in poorly ventilated kitchens. Women and children are continuously exposed to high levels of harmful smoke and suffer serious health damage.
Billions of dollars have been spent on research into the effects of cigarette smoke but very little has been done to protect the women who must cook to live, although the problem has been recognized for more than ten years.
Biomass smoke contains several poisonous constituents such as respirable particulates and carbon monoxide (CO). These can result in pneumonia, tuberculosis, lower birth weights, eye cataracts and nervous and muscular fatigue. Smoke also contains sulphur and nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons.