Respiratory Illnesses Linked to Cooking With Wood or Coal
People who live in homes where wood, coal, and other solid fuels are burned to cook food are at increased risk for serious respiratory problems, hospitalization, and death from pollutants that can penetrate deep into the lungs, suggests a study conducted in China and published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
According to the World Health Organization, about three billion people throughout the world live in households that rely on solid fuels, mostly in rural areas of low- or middle-income countries.
For this study, researchers reviewed the health records of 280,000 adults, 30 to 79 who had never smoked and had not been diagnosed with respiratory or other major chronic diseases at the start of the study. During the 9-year follow-up period, 19,823 participants were hospitalized or died from respiratory problems — 10,553 from asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and 7,324 from lower respiratory infections like pneumonia.
After adjusting for other factors (age, gender, socioeconomic status, secondhand smoke, alcohol use, diet, physical activity levels, and obesity, for example), the researchers determined that the risk for hospitalization or death from acute or chronic respiratory diseases is 36 percent higher in people who cook with wood or coal than in those who cook with electricity or gas. In study participants who had used wood or coal for at least 40 years, the risk is 54 percent higher, and in those who switched from solid fuels, the risk fell to 14 percent higher than in those who never used wood or coal for cooking, according to the researchers.