Skoll Foundation


Want less lung cancer in Guatemala? Give them better stoves

August 22, 2011 by

Partners in Health recently helped 140 families in Guatemala learn to use improved wood-burning stoves, according to the PIH blog. In a region where wood is the main source of cooking fuel, kitchens are often thick with lung-damaging smoke.

Improved stoves decrease kitchen smoke by as much as 90 percent, significantly reducing both wood consumption and the smoke-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – asthma, chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer. This project is one of many PIH initiatives aimed at reducing the burden of NCDs in developing countries.

“Visitors to rural Guatemalan homes are often astounded by the thick smoke filling people’s homes,” Lindsay Palazuelos, PIH’s project coordinator in Guatemala, said on the blog. Families spend a significant amount of time and money buying, chopping and hauling wood to cook meals and heat water, all of which has to happen multiple times a day.

“Because of this, it’s not uncommon to meet middle-aged women suffering from emphysema or chronic bronchitis, as if they were lifetime smokers,” continues Palazuelos. “But instead of a two pack a day habit, they’ve simply been making beans and tortillas in a smoky kitchen.”

Roughly 90 percent of rural households worldwide still use solid fuels such as wood for cooking. As a result, an estimated 1.5 million people die prematurely from smoke-related NCDs each year, making this the eighth most dangerous contributor to the global burden of disease.

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