Woodsmoke From Cooking Fires Linked to Pneumonia, Cognitive Impacts
Two new studies led by the University of California, Berkeley, researchers are putting the spotlight on human health effects of exposure to smoke from open fires and dirty cookstoves, the primary source of cooking and heating for 43 percent of the world’s population, particularly affecting women and young children living in poverty.
The researchers found a dramatic one-third reduction in severe pneumonia diagnoses among children in homes with smoke-reducing chimneys on their cookstoves, and in a separate study, they found a link between prenatal maternal exposure to woodsmoke and reductions in markers for IQ at ages 6 and 7 years.
The findings on pneumonia. the chief cause of death for children five and under, are to be published in the journal Lancet on Thursday, Nov. 10, two days before World Pneumonia Day. While previous research has linked exposure to household cooking smoke to respiratory infections, the latest results come from the first ever randomized controlled trial – the gold standard of scientific experiments – on air pollution.
Many people accept the relationship between air pollution and chronic diseases, but pollution’s influence on infectious diseases like pneumonia is less intuitive,” said Kirk Smith, professor of global environmental health at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and principal investigator of the RESPIRE (Randomized Exposure Study of Pollution Indoors and Respiratory Effects) study. “This study is critically important because it provides compelling evidence that reducing household woodsmoke exposure is a public health intervention worth investing in. We found as large a benefit for severe pneumonia as more well-known public health interventions, such as vaccinations and nutrition supplements.”