Collins: ‘Clearing the Air’
We call it “soot,” but it is officially known as “black carbon.” Soot is the fine, black residue that can be found inside our fireplaces and on the outside of our car's tailpipe. Though, on the surface, it might appear to be little more than a dirty nuisance, the truth is black carbon is a potent source of pollution around the world. It is also a health risk.
The primitive cookstoves used in developing countries are a major source of the black carbon contributing to this serious global environmental and public health issue. Nearly half the world's population cooks food over open fires or inefficient, polluting, and unsafe cookstoves. Smoke from these traditional cookstoves and open fires is associated with a number of chronic and acute diseases, affecting women and young children disproportionately. The World Health Organization estimates cookstove smoke to be one of the top five threats to public health in poor, developing countries. This smoke may account for nearly two million deaths annually in the developing world, which is more than the deaths from malaria, tuberculosis, or HIV.
Traditional cookstoves also create serious environmental impacts. The amount of biomass cooking fuel required each year can reach up to two tons per family. This can strip the environment of natural resources. Recent studies show that emissions of black carbon from biomass cookstoves significantly contribute to climate change, second only to carbon dioxide in impact.