Toxic gases from indoor solid-fuel cooking fires put families at risk

Families in the world’s poorest countries can contract fatal pulmonary diseases from burning solid fuels that give off toxic gases in their poorly ventilated kitchens, two United Nations agencies said today, estimating the risk to be the equivalent of each resident smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. ”Thick acrid smoke rising from stoves and fires inside homes is associated with around 1.6 million deaths per year in developing countries — that’s one life lost every 20 seconds to the killer in the kitchen.”From United Nations:

Toxic gases from indoor solid-fuel cooking fires put families at risk — UN

Families in the world’s poorest countries can contract fatal pulmonary diseases from burning solid fuels that give off toxic gases in their poorly ventilated kitchens, two United Nations agencies said today, estimating the risk to be the equivalent of each resident smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

”Thick acrid smoke rising from stoves and fires inside homes is associated with around 1.6 million deaths per year in developing countries — that’s one life lost every 20 seconds to the killer in the kitchen,” the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said in a message to mark World Rural Women’s Day on 15 October.

Cleaner gases, liquids and electricity are currently the main alternatives but the WHO-backed Global Partnership for Clean Indoor Air is also coordinating research into cleaner fuels, stoves and smoke hoods.

In the meantime, nearly half the world still cooks with wood, agricultural residues, coal and dried dung, according to the agencies. ”Smoke from burning these fuels gives off a poisonous cocktail of particles and chemicals that bypasses the body’s defences and more than doubles the risk of respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia,” they said.

Poor rural women typically spend up to three mornings a week collecting fuel, denying themselves the opportunity of looking for paid work to raise family incomes, improve living standards and improve their nutrition and health, WHO and UNDP said.

In some circumstances, such as the ethnic crisis in Darfur, Sudan, ”the chore has taken on a perilous dimension following the rape, kidnap, beatings and murder of women leaving refugee camps to search for wood.”

The two institutions called on governments, civil society and the aid community to pay the same attention to the ”killer in the kitchen” as they pay to other major threats.

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