Scientists Sound Alarm on Hazards of Cookstoves

Experts at the National Institutes of Health are calling for a stepped up international effort to replace the smoky and inefficient indoor cooking and heating stoves used widely in the developing world.

The experts — including Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH — noted that nearly 2 million people around the world are estimated to die prematurely due to the household stoves, more than the number who succumb to malaria.

“Many people in developed countries don’t realize that smoke from indoor cooking fires is a terrible scourge upon the health of a large number of people,” Collins said in a news release.

Collins and his three NIH co-authors pointed out in a commentary published in the journal Science that about 3 billion people, nearly half of the word’s population, are exposed to the indoor pollution.

As HealthDay reports, the scientists explained that the wood, crop residues, charcoal, dung and coal fueling the stoves fill homes with dense smoke and blacken walls and ceilings, increasing the risk of health problems such as pneumonia, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Women and children are at greatest risk for health damage caused by the stoves because they tend to be home more.

The NIH authors also cited the massive environmental damage, including deforestation, resulting from the use of the stoves.

They urged new spending of $150 million to $200 million on research on the health effects of the stoves and the potential benefits of replacing them. In addition, they expressed support for an effort launched by the United Nations, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, to create a global market for clean and efficient stoves and fuels in the developing world.

The alliance’s target is “100 by 20,” which stands for the adoption of clean, efficient stoves and fuels by 100 million homes by the year 2020, with eventual worldwide adoption.

STUART SILVERSTEIN

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