New study finds clean cookstoves may improve women’s heart health
Shifting from a cookstove that burns traditional woodfuel to a stove that uses a cleaner-burning fuel such as ethanol may mitigate cardiovascular health risks in pregnant women, according to a new study led by a team from the University of Chicago.
The study, which evaluated 324 pregnant women in Nigeria, monitored the impact of transitioning from traditional firewood or kerosene cookstoves to ethanol-burning stoves on biomarkers of systemic inflammation (indicators of cardiovascular disease) in women from their first to third trimesters of pregnancy.
“What’s remarkable about the study is that shifting from traditional cooking with firewood to clean fuels, including ethanol, may improve women’s cardiovascular health” said Dr. Christopher Olopade, Professor of Medicine and Clinical Director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Chicago, which led the research. “We also found that the women preferred to use the new ethanol stoves, so much so that over 80% are still using their ethanol stoves upon completion of the study.”
[pullquote] Globally, nearly 3 billion people still rely on open fires and traditional, solid fuel-burning stoves to cook their food, causing between 3 and 4 million deaths a year and widespread health impacts.
The randomized controlled trial, published in the journal Environment International, explored differences in biomarkers of systemic inflammation among women using traditional wood, kerosene, and ethanol stoves. Biomarkers RBP (retinol binding protein), IL-6 (interluekin-6), IL-8, TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor alpha), and MDA (malondialdehyde) were assessed at baseline and during the 3rd trimester. TNF- α levels were 68% lower in firewood users who switched to ethanol. Similar trends were observed for IL-6. Significant changes were not observed for other biomarkers assessed. These results suggest that shifting from traditional cooking with firewood to clean fuels, including ethanol, can deliver significant health impacts. The project was supported by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, with UK aid from the British people.
Researchers are finalizing additional data analysis from the Nigeria study and plan to publish results on both maternal health and birth outcomes in early 2017.