I’ve just opened my copy of our magazine Small World which has an article about smoke reducing stoves. Agnes Ngari from Kenya tells her story – she starts
“My husband died 5 years ago of pneumonia, It was so hard for me to be on my own with the children. I have been a labourer all my life, working on the rice plantations next to my home. I don’t know how I survived before because I hardly made any money….
I didn’t realise how bad the smoke was. Our eyes would stream constantly and there were so many problems with our lungs….”
This is a positive story of how Agnes has turned her life around making and selling fuel efficient, lower smoke stoves as part of a women’s cooperative helped by Practical Action.
But as I read the story I found myself shouting at the page (I do talk to books and computers!) ’Smoke killed your husband and you don’t know it!’
I may be wrong but Smoke – officially known as indoor air pollution – increases the susceptibility to pneumonia. Most often that’s in children –pneumonia kills more children under 5 than any other disease – killing a child every 20 seconds. In adults it causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which puts people at greater risk of developing pneumonia creating a downward spiral of repeated lung infections and further decline in lung function – sometimes until people die.
Writing this I’m reminder of an argument I’ve had for years with a more academic colleague who says that smoke doesn’t kill anyone – pneumonia, COPD, lung cancer, etc. kills people, smoke just makes it much more likely you will die as a result of one of these diseases. I always counter with ‘then tobacco smoke doesn’t kill you’ – which she agrees it doesn’t – it’s the lung cancer that gets you every time.
Thankfully I’m not an academic – smoke in the kitchen has been estimated as the equivalent of smoking 2 packets of cigarettes a day – very bad for adults, appalling for children. Smoke is the killer in the kitchen. And sad to say I suspect it claimed Agnes’s husband.
Let’s help protect Agnes’s children.