Use a clean cook stove to improve indoor air quality and help fight climate change
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One’s home should be a place to retreat to when outdoor air quality is substandard, whether due to pollen and other allergens, or ozone and other hazardous gasses that can have adverse effects on health.
Unfortunately, in many homes around the world, poor ventilation coupled with hazardous cook stoves can contribute to devastating health conditions. According to environmental advocacy group the Clean Cooking Alliance, over 3 billion people worldwide—that’s over a third of the world’s population—lack the access to modern stoves and fuels and rely on using open fires—often indoors—that employ coal, wood, kerosene, and even garbage and animal dung, which emit hazardous levels of smoke and carbon.
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This problem is not just happening halfway across the globe. Studies have found that over 6 million people rely on burning solid fuels like wood or coal as their primary heating source in the U.S., and roughly a half million people, many of whom live below the poverty line and/or live on Native reservations, rely on burning them as primary cooking sources, which leads to elevated household air pollution.
Cost and custom may prove to be hurdles in implementing broad changes for many people, but the simplest fix for this issue on a domestic level is to swap out inefficient wood stoves with either lower emission wood stoves that also require less biomass to fuel them, or electric versions whenever possible.Shop wood-burning stoves at MF Fire Shop electric fireplaces at Amazon
Dirty cooking leads to devastating effects
This “dirty cooking” is having a devastating effect on the most vulnerable sections of society, including the poorest women and children, whose health and even education are disrupted, as they have no better alternatives than scavenging for fuel to burn in order to feed themselves.
The household air pollution (HAP) produced by dirty cook stoves and open fires has negative health effects on those in close proximity to these emissions, contributing to up to 4 million premature deaths annually, including an estimated 450,000 deaths of children under 5 years old in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia, many attributed to pneumonia exacerbated by household soot.
It should also be noted that women are more vulnerable than men to these adverse effects from dirty cooking. Responsible for the majority of cooking, women’s health is endangered, their pregnancies are often adversely affected by their exposure to and inhalation of smoke and pollutants, and the time they spend in search of viable fuel sources can often prevent them from attending school or work. Though not an environmental problem, this gender inequity is a devastating byproduct of the issue.
The ramifications of indoor smoke
The World Health Organization has found that in poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for fine particles which, when inhaled, can penetrate the lungs and contribute to asthma, COPD, and even lung cancer, creating a serious risk for anyone exposed to it.
While the vast majority of American cook stoves and heat stoves do provide proper ventilation to reduce the concentrations of particulate matter and harmful gasses, it’s helpful to be aware of what invisible dangers are actually in your home.
No matter what kind of heat or cook stove you use, the three ways to ensure clean air within your home are: 1) Source control, meaning reducing the output of harmful emissions like smoke, 2) ventilation, which is allowing the flow of fresh air in and out of your home, and 3) supplemental air cleaning/filtration, such as the use of HEPA filters and other air filtration devices.
By monitoring your home for smoke and harmful gasses, you can actually quantify your risks and address them properly, making your home a healthy haven.Airthings House Kit for $360 at Amazon
Is it OK to continue to use a gas range in your home?
While most Americans don’t need to worry about air pollution caused by biomass-fueled cook stoves, there’s mounting evidence against the use of gas ranges for health and environmental reasons, including the harmful emission methane and nitrogen oxide.
This recent study, published in January 2022, revealed that gas stoves, which are used in roughly 40 million American households, emit a slow leak of methane gas, one of the top gasses contributing to climate change—and, astoundingly, even when they’re not in use.
The study revealed that the “annual methane emissions from all gas stoves in U.S. homes have a climate impact comparable to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 500,000 cars.”
(Unfamiliar with induction cooking? Our Induction Cooking 101 guide will tell you everything you need to know about it.)Shop induction ranges at Best Buy Shop electric ranges at Best Buy
What happens on the other side of the planet affects you
Given the sheer volume of pollution produced globally by people without clean cooking options, what happens on the other side of the globe can and will have an impact on us all.
Carbon emissions produced by cook stoves are contributing to climate change, which is affecting our environment and our health. The Clean Cooking Alliance states that household air pollution is responsible for 16% of all global air pollution, with cook stove emissions greatly contributing to those HAP numbers.
Air pollution, consisting of particulate matter like smoke and smog, and ground level ozone gas, is directly contributing to climate change, which directly corresponds to increases in asthma, lung and cardiovascular diseases, and higher infant mortality rates right here in America.
Climate change is also lengthening our pollen (and therefore allergy) seasons, wreaking havoc on our health and productivity.
Coupled with direct effects that dirty cook stoves have on the health of those around them, both household and outdoor air pollution are having catastrophic effects on our health.
Is there anything U.S. consumers can do?
Clean cook stoves may seem like an issue that is beyond our control, and for many of us, it’s not a topic we’ve ever considered.
By raising awareness of the issue, and supporting global initiatives such as the United Nations 2030 Agenda, which emphasizes sustainable development around the world, and following the guidelines set forth by the World Health Organization, hopefully we can make small changes to our daily routines that will have big impacts over time.
In addition, those of us still hanging on to our gas stoves may want to consider cleaner alternatives, too, like electric or induction models, or things like solar stoves, which are primarily used for outdoor cooking.
(Speaking of outdoor cooking, if this whole topic makes you want to throw your hands up in despair and pledge to cook on your grill forever instead of cooking indoors, a study has also shown that grills that run on propane have one-third the carbon footprint than a charcoal grill.)
We get that this kind of information can feel overwhelming, but the more we educate ourselves and take action in order to protect our health and the future of the planet.Shop solar ovens at Amazon
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