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Global Health
May 21, 2014

Cleaner Fuel for Heating and Cooking Saves Lung Function

JAMA. 2014;311(19):1958. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.5396

Replacing dirty cooking fuels with cleaner ones and improving ventilation in kitchens is associated with better lung function and a reduced risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a 9-year study in rural southern China (Zhou Y et al. PLoS Med. 2014:11[3]:e1001621).

Almost 3 billion people in developing countries rely on burning biomass, such as wood and animal dung, to heat their homes and cook indoors. Open fires and leaky stoves pollute the air in homes and can lead to impaired lung function and COPD. Researchers from China carried out a 9-year prospective cohort study from 2002 through 2011 among 996 people living in 12 villages in southern China to assess the long-term effects on lung function from replacing biomass with biogas (a clean fuel produced by bacterial digestion of biodegradable materials) for cooking and heating. The participants completed questionnaires and received spirometry tests in 2005, 2008, and 2011. Levels of indoor air pollution were also measured in a randomly selected subset of homes at the end of the study to determine whether the interventions had improved air quality.

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