Smoke gets in their eyes
News release January 2002. For current information see our pages on Smoke: the Killer in the Kitchen
ITDGPractical Action's new study and projects provide practical solutions to the problem of indoor air pollution in developing countries
Independent research indicates that indoor air pollution is a contributory cause of around two million deaths in developing countries. Acute respiratory infections, ear and eye problems, breathlessness, chest pains, headaches and giddiness are just some of the symptoms that poor woman and children suffer in their rural homes. And the cause? Smoke from cooking.
However, in a report supported by Glaxo-Wellcome and other donors, launched at DFID on January 31st 2002, ITDGPractical Action highlights how its Kenya Smoke and Health Project provides a model to reduce the smoke by as much as 77%.
Around 80% of people living in sub-Saharan Africa depend on biomass - wood, dung and crop residues - for domestic energy. But burning these fuels in enclosed spaces results in indoor air pollution.
The project, involving 50 rural households in Kajiado and Western Kenya, devised appropriate technology to reduce pollution in people's kitchens. Results showed that the introduction of smoke hoods, eaves, windows and improved, fuel efficient stoves can reduce these damaging particles by approximately two thirds.
|Hellen, the field supervisor, calibrates a particulate monitor before it is taken to one of the households. (photo: N Bruce)|
Dr Liz Bates, ITDGPractical Action's Smoke and Health Project Co-ordinator elaborates: "The project identified that the levels of smoke particles in these rural homes is, in most cases, more than 100 times greater than the acceptable level of 50 micrograms of smoke particles per cubic metre suggested by the US Environmental Protection Agency."
Readings were taken in the cooking area of each home, on two occasions before the smoke hoods were introduced, and on two occasions after the technology was installed. The cooks' exposure to carbon monoxide was measured independently.
Statistical analyses of the results show that the introduction of the hoods produced an average reduction of health-damaging particles in the house of 75% and in carbon monoxide, of 77%. The results from the cooks' personal monitors gave an improvement in carbon monoxide exposure of 35%.
Where the households selected eaves spaces, windows and stoves, the reduction in smoke particles was 62%; and other benefits included increased daylight and more pleasant working conditions.
Stephen Gitonga, ITDGPractical Action's Energy Programme Manager in Kenya, said "The project also identified that the use of smoke hoods and other forms of technology not only improved people's health, but also reduced drudgery, saved money and increased people's comfort.
"Refa, the husband of a project woman, who used to suffer from asthma attacks before the technology was put in place, told us that he used to steer clear of the kitchen before, but he is now willing to assist his wife in some domestic tasks. Nowadays he wakes up at 5.30am, puts his bathing water on the fire, then goes to bathe as he leaves the tea getting ready on the fire. His wife is now relieved from waking up early and doing all the household chores by herself."
|The new windows in their houses have allowed Kajiado women to do beadwork in their homes, while their children can do their homework. (photo: N Bruce)|
For Refa's wife, less soot on walls, ceilings, hair, sheets, children's books and clothes makes it easier for her to wash her children, do the housework and light the fire. The interventions also help her cook faster ... and any fuel can be used with the smoke hood so the family can stay longer in the house, cook food faster and watch over their livestock through the windows.
An illustrated version of the full report is also available. Please note that this file is over 3MB and is only suitable for broadband connections.
Smoke - the Killer in the Kitchen
Smoke in the home from cooking on wood, dung and crop waste kills nearly one million children a year. In its report, Smoke: the Killer in the Kitchen, ITDGPractical Action is calling for global action to save the lives of 1.6 million men, women and children lost each year to lethal levels of household smoke.
Read more about the Smoke and Health project on the Technology for
Sustainable Livelihoods website
or find out about ITDGPractical Action's other energy projects
Read more about household energy in ITDGPractical Action's journal Boiling Point