| Boiling Point No. 13 - August 1987 |
Combustion of biomass fuels (wood, agricultural wastes, dung, etc.) inside homes can cause high concentrations of air pollution. The situation is particularly serious if the fuel is burned in an open fire (on three stones for example) or a chimneyless stove with no ventilation to remove the resulting smoke.
The concentrations of air pollutants measured inside rural houses have been measured in different parts of the world and are judged generally to be much higher than are considered acceptable. These data are also supported by reports from observers who describe the atmosphere in rural houses often as very smoky in which they can stay only for a short period. There is no doubt that the health of women and children in particular may be seriously affected by these conditions.
An examination of the epidemiological literature indicates 5 major categories of health impacts from high exposures to biomass combustion products:
- low birth weight babies;
- acute respiratory infections in children;
- chronic obstructive lung disease
- heart disease caused by pulmonary distress;
- cancer, possibly nasopharyogeal cancer.
Within the health sector, the issue of eliminating the hazard of exposure to indoor air pollution is being tackled along two lines:
(i) Expand the knowledge on the health risks involved in exposure to indoor air pollution stemming from biomass fuel combustion;
(ii) Advocate and provide support where possible for the implementation of technological changes that will reduce or eliminate the health hazard.
The role of stove projects is to design and promote stoves and kitchen systems which reduce the amount of smoke in the kitchen or affecting the stove user. Information about the relative toxicity of smoke from different fuels or different combustion conditions occurring in different types of stoves is needed for this.
We also believe that injuries from cooking stoves are fairly common and sometimes serious, even fatal, caused for example by:
- burning of children by flames, sparks, falling onto the fire or fuel falling out;
- scalding by pots falling over on 3 stones fires or unstable stoves.
Unfortunately, they are not often reported and so it is difficult to judge the reduction which could result from using improved stoves. We would welcome information or personal experiences from stove projects.
We thank Dr. de Koning for his contribution to this editorial.
"IMPROVED" MUST MEAN SAFER AND LESS SMOKY