Up in Smoke: Increased risk of respiratory disease when cooking with solid fuels

By Meg Thode

Researchers from Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences have found that cooking with solid fuels is associated with an increased risk of acute respiratory disease and death. The study examined the health records of 280,000 Chinese adults, age 30 to 79, who did not smoke and were not diagnosed with asthma or other major chronic diseases at the start of the study. Over the nine-year observation period, 19,823 deaths were reported, roughly 90% of which could be attributed to asthma, COPD or lower respiratory infections (e.g. pneumonia). With further analysis, they found that the risk of these respiratory-related hospitalizations and deaths was 36 percent higher for individuals cooking with wood or coal, compared to those using electricity or gas. They also found the risk is directly proportional to length of exposure: the more time spent cooking with solid fuels, the higher the risk of respiratory illness and death. Although studies have established a connection between the two previously, this study took a new approach: it reviewed existing hospitalization records as opposed to modeling the change in lung function that results from exposure to smoke.

Senior author, Zhengming Chen, MBBS, DPhil, put the study results in context: “Although we cannot infer a causal relationship from these observational findings, our findings make a compelling case to speed up the global implementation of universal access to affordable clean energy, one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

American Thoracic Society. (2018, September 21). Cooking with wood or coal is linked to increased risk of respiratory illness and death. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180921092447.htm