According to the Global Alliance for Cookstoves, 1.9 million people die each year from exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires—the primary cooking and heating method for almost 3 billion people in developing countries. Additionally, the reliance on fuels from natural resources creates severe personal security risks, especially for women and girls, as they search for wood in refugee camps and conflict zones. The use of cookstoves and indoor fires contributes to multiple chronic illnesses such as:
- Childhood Pneumonia
- Lung Cancer
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Low Birth Weight
Plus, these cookstoves emit a range of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, along with aerosols like black carbon, which contributes to climate change.
Led by the United Nations Foundation, the goal of this public-private initiative is to create and foster conditions that will make it possible for 100 million households to obtain clean-operating cookstoves by 2020. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves seeks to stimulate a thriving global market for clean cookstoves and fuels that will make high-performance, low-emission cookstoves affordable and available to those in need. This initiative will also create jobs and economic opportunity locally as well as globally.
To aid in these efforts, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced on Tuesday, September 21, that EPA will partner with the public-private initiative and invest $6 million over the next five years to enhance stove testing efforts, cookstove design innovation, and health benefit assessments.
With the effects of cookstoves reaching far beyond the villages and refugee camps where they are used, it makes me aware of how much I take for granted the ability to safely cook for myself and keep my home warm. It also makes me wonder how safe my own kitchen and home are because I cook with gas, warm my water with it, and have gas heating. Could I be poisoning myself or the environment with gas byproducts as the result of improper ventilation?
The National Center for Healthy Housing lists proper ventilation as one of its seven principles of a healthy home. To ensure that your home is properly ventilated for improved indoor air quality, the organization suggests installing exterior exhaust fans in bathroom and kitchens to remove humidity and carbon dioxide. It also recommends that you examine your HVAC system, portable air conditioner, window air conditioner, heater, or dehumidifier for proper ventilation and ducting, when applicable.
The Alliance for Healthy Homes points out that these inspections don’t necessarily have to be completed by a professional. Oftentimes, a quick visual survey of the area for mold, possible leaks, or other damage can alert you to a house-related health hazards.
Poor indoor air quality doesn’t just affect people in developing nations, it concerns us all. Take a few minutes today to make sure that your house isn’t making you or the environment sick.
For more information about the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, visit cleancookstoves.org.
To find out more ways to keep your home safe, check out the information provided by the Alliance for Healthy Homes.