Clean Cooking Research Update—Air Pollution and Health—June 2019
The evidence base for clean cooking continues to grow. The Clean Cooking Alliance will periodically publish a brief to highlight new research impacting the sector. With the theme of this year’s World Environment Day being “Beat Air Pollution,” this update focuses on recent air pollution and health research:
So far in 2019, we’ve seen . . .
. . . increasing evidence that air pollution is shortening people’s lives and potentially connected with many diseases, from allergies to cancer.
- Global: The Health Effects Institute’s annual State of Global Air report estimates that global life expectancy is shortened by an average of almost nine months from household air pollution (HAP), and by 20 months from total air pollution. The report found that people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are disproportionately affected by the health impacts of HAP—life expectancy was shortened by 15 months in South Asia and by 16 months in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Global: An extensive, two-part review from Schraufnagel, et al. examined the connection between air pollution and multiple diseases. This review found potential connections between air pollution and health concerns ranging from allergies, to cancer, to brain development, and even reproduction. This comprehensive review demonstrates that the impacts on health are far reaching.
If you really want to beat air pollution, previous research tells us to address household air pollution as well (because HAP is such a significant contributor to overall air pollution). So, to improve air quality, you have to deal with the polluting technology in people’s homes. The good news is that we are beginning to see research showing that household solutions have the potential to address air pollution at scale.
- India: An estimated 270,000 premature deaths would be averted each year, not to mention India would meet their national air quality guidelines, if every household in India transitioned to clean cooking, heating, and lighting, according to a recent paper by Chowdhury, et al. The paper is supported by a policy brief from the newly launched Collaborative Clean Air Policy Centre.
For governments to take action on air pollution, they need to know not only the full impact of doing nothing, but also the total benefits to be gained. One benefit we are seeing is that addressing air pollution could reduce the burden on health care systems and lead to many positive health outcomes.
- China: One study from Chan, et al. followed over 275,000 adults for nearly a decade to assess the long-term effects of household air pollution. People who cooked primarily with wood or coal were more likely to be hospitalized or die from a respiratory illness than those who used clean fuels. Solid-fuel users who had chimneys or who switched to clean fuels lowered their risk for hospitalization and death. Data on long-term health outcomes is vital for governments to better plan for and finance their health care systems. This research is particularly timely as China hosted World Environment Day this year.
- India: A study by Mazumder, et al. assessed fine particulate matter exposure and lung function in two groups of women: those who primarily use biomass to cook and those who primarily use liquified petroleum gas (LPG) to cook. The study found that cooking with clean fuels was associated with improved lung function. Impaired lung function is associated with respiratory and cardiovascular disease and premature death.
- LMICs: An article by Onakomaiya, et al. reviewing several studies noted a measurable reduction in blood pressure among clean fuel users in LMICs in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke, pointing to the potential health benefits of clean cooking.
- Ghana: Air pollution can impact health even before birth. Kaali, et al.’s article from an Alliance-funded study found that prenatal exposure to carbon monoxide could potentially lead to worse birth outcomes. This exposure was alleviated by switching to clean fuels for cooking.
Finally, in case you missed it . . .
Take the mask challenge. Pledge to take action to beat air pollution. Share your commitment and a photo of yourself wearing a mask on social media.