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close this book Boiling Point No. 13 - August 1987
View the document SAFER AND LESS SMOKY STOVES
View the document COOKSTOVE SMOKE AND HEALTH
View the document THE PERFORMANCE OF A MULTI-POT STOVE ; TOXICITY OF FUMES
View the document CARBON MONOXIDE CONTAMINATION IN DWELLINGS IN POOR RURAL AREAS OF GUATEMALA
View the document SARVODAYA GIVE PRIORITY TO HEALTH AND SAFETY IN SRI LANKA KITCHENS
View the document STOVE EFFICIENCIES AND HARMFUL EMISSIONS
View the document IMPROVED STOVES: SAFETY IS IMPORTANT TOO
View the document BURUNDI IMPROVED CHARCOAL STOVES
View the document TRADITIONAL DOMESTIC HEATING IN AFGHANISTAN by Abdul Shakoor Raji
View the document UGANDA CONSIDERS 2.45 MILLION NEW STOVES PLAN
View the document MOROGORO FUELWOOD STOVE PROJECT TANZANIA
View the document SIERRA LEONE WOODSTOVE TRIALS
View the document DOMESTIC ENERGY IN THE SAHEL
View the document FIREWOOD CONSUMPTION BY THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY
View the document BRUNTLAND COMMISSION REPORT
View the document IMPROVED CHULHA
View the document READERS VIEWS AND QUESTIONS
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CARBON MONOXIDE CONTAMINATION IN DWELLINGS IN POOR RURAL AREAS OF GUATEMALA

Omar Dary, Oscar Pineda PhD and Jose M. Belizan MD, PhD.

Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), Guatemala, CA

The following is a summary of the paper published in 1981.

The detrimental effects of environmental carbon monoxide (CO) contamination have been well documented in both humans and experimental animals. In human adults, an increased incidence of cardiovascular and nervous disorders has been associated with CO contamination levels. Exposure to CO contaminated air during pregnancy has been shown to have a detrimental effect on fetal growth.

In Guatemala, inhabitants of rural areas are isolated from the pollution of big cities, and cigarette smoking, especially among women in these areas, is not widespread. Therefore, these population groups are not affected by the urban types of contamination. Nevertheless, due to cooking procedures and housing structure, poor rural populations, particularly women, are exposed to high concentrations of carbon monoxide. In this article these characteristics are described as found in two rural Guatemalan communities.

Two communities living at different altitudes were studied in rural Guatemala. Their general characteristics are shown in Table 1.

Specifically, the following data were collected material used for walls (brick, cane poles or wood); their compactness, i.e. air filtration through walls; the number and size of openings (doors and windows); the presence or absence of chimneys and the interviewer's impression of air circulation in the kitchen. Based on this information the kitchens were classified as well - or poorly - ventilated.

After that information was gathered, a random sample of 180 houses was selected from the homes where wood fires were used for cooking and air samples were taken at different times during the day. The samples were taken at a point I meter away from the fire and at a height of I meter.

Table 1. Characteristics of populations studied

 

Village at low altitude

Village at high

 

(250-300 m above sea level)

altitude (1350-1400 m above sea level)

Villge name

San Agustin Acasaguastlan

Joyabaj

Department

El Progreso

El Quiche

Temperature range

20 - 35C

12-2SC

Annual precipitation

500 - 600 mm

2000 - 3000 mm

% Indian population

0.22%

37.54%

Principal sources of

Corn, beans and fruit

Corn, beans, and sugar

income

production

cane production

No. of inhabitants

3215

1987

No. of houses

1000

800

Material used for cooking

   

firewood

89% (n=178)

99% (n=198)

kerosene

7% (n=14)

1% (n=2)

propane

4% (n=8)

 

Kitchen ventilation:

   

good

71 % (n=142)

30% (n=60)

poor

29 % (n=58)

70% (n=140)

A finger prick blood sample of 0.5 ml was taken from 208 non-smoking women at the hour of greatest smoke exposure.

The haemoglobin concentration was measured in the blood samples.

In the poor, rural Guatemalan villages which were studied, the use of wood fires for cooking was almost ubiquitous. This, as well as the lack of chimneys, accounts for the high level of smoke exposure to which these populations are subjected. The same exposure pattern can be observed throughout the entire rural area of Guatemala and it can be estimated that between 620,000 and 650,000 households in the country are subjected to similar levels of exposure. This implies that about 1.5 million Guatemalan women of reproductive age are living in the conditions described above and are subjected to high levels of CO contaminination.

The contamination level in poorly-ventilated kitchens oscillates between 30 and 50 ppm at cooking times. In several countries the maximum safe levels of exposure to CO for periods up to one hour have been established as being between 32 and 40 ppm. Thus the populations described here are exposed to dangerous CO levels during the greater part of the day. Carboxyhemoglobin levels resulting from this exposure fluctuate between 1.5 and 2.5%. Levels of this magnitude have been associated with an increased incidence of cardiac disease.