Cooking and heating with solid fuels indoors pollutes the air and increases the risk of illness for nearly 3 billion people worldwide. This type of indoor air pollution is the leading cause of lung cancer and chronic lung disease among nonsmoking women in the world’s poorest communities. The risk for cardiovascular diseases, digestive and cervical cancers, and low birth weight babies may increase when women breathe this unsafe air every day.
The CDC response
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has joined the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (the Alliance), bringing our public health expertise to the effort. CDC has used disease surveillance data to refine stove and fuel design to help develop safe, efficient, and affordable cookstoves. It is hoped that analysis of these data can lead to greater acceptance in the developing world. CDC is also implementing field investigations and supporting program implementation and evaluation to help the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves promote clean and safe cooking. By evaluating this project alongside other public health programs like clean water, immunizations, prenatal services, and HIV prevention, the relative public health benefit of each can be compared in ways that assure public health investments and activities produce a maximum benefit.
The Alliance is in the first year of its organizational stage and is focusing on raising awareness of the health threat, and building advocacy within the public health, gender-equity, energy access, and climate protection communities. Quantifying risks and benefits is underway, as is an assessment of existing clean stove programs to assure efficient coordination. The Alliance is also working to develop consensus standards on technical aspects of clean, efficient stoves, and is exploring finance options to facilitate stove deployment in the developing world.
Vision for Growth
With half the world’s people eating food prepared on unsafe cookstoves, there is tremendous potential for improvement. Currently, nearly 2 million deaths a year are attributable to diseases brought on by household smoke from unsafe cookstoves. The Alliance aims to help 100 million households adopt cleaner cookstove alternatives by 2020, through scientific validation of health benefits—CDC’s role—and novel marketing initiatives that will aid local economies to help make clean-burning cookstoves available to all who need them.