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Dublin: 13 °C Friday 20 September, 2019
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How cooking with coal and wood fires is killing millions around the world

…Especially women and children.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

BILLIONS OF PEOPLE worldwide are at risk of dying early due to the effects of cooking, heating and lighting their homes with fossil fuel fires.

That’s the conclusion of a report released this morning in the Lancet medical journal.

Three billion people (about one third of the global population) use solid fuels like coal, wood or charcoal, for functions otherwise performed by gas and electricity.

Primarily living in Asia and Africa, these 600-800 million families are at an increased risk of diseases such as lung cancer, according to the British and American researchers.

The combined effects of smoky and dirty fossil fuels, burned in an open fire or stove, in a home with poor ventilation, ultimately killed between 3.5 and 4 million people in 2010 alone.

This map shows the regions worst-hit by deaths from household air pollution: Africa, India, Asia and parts of South America and even Central Europe.

coalmap

Household air pollution from these fuels is causing early deaths among affected populations, as well as major health problems like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia, and respiratory tract infections .

What exacerbates these enormous public health problems, the study found, is the shoddy healthcare available to women and children, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of coal and wood burning.

Governments and experts in worst-hit countries simply must do more to bring down the death rates, says co-lead researcher William Martin, from Ohio State University.

Scientists and health professionals in countries where household air pollution is still widespread need to work with governments and international health agencies to increase awareness of the huge toll that it is exacting on the population.
There are many gaps in our knowledge of how to effectively measure and prevent household air pollution, but this problem cannot be solved until the global community recognises the scale of this problem and commits to coordinated and concerted action.

Scroll down to read the report in full, or for a short explanation of how burning fossil fuels translates into millions of deaths per year, check out this video:

 

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Dan MacGuill

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