For many Americans, the most pressing concern about stoves is whether they are made of stainless steel. But more than 3 billion people in the world have more serious worries. They still cook the way their ancestors did—over an open fire or on a crude stove that creates indoor air pollution that can cause chronic lung diseases and severe pneumonia.
Indoor air pollution from these stoves is in the top 5 most significant threats to health in developing nations. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that exposure to smoke from these stoves kills more than 1.5 million people each year. Not surprisingly, women and young children are at the highest risk.To support the effort toward reducing these health threats, CDC joined the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves as a founding member in 2010. The Alliance was launched by the United Nations Foundation with strong support from the Secretary of State. Its 350 partners are working together to help 100 million families around the world adopt clean and safe cooking solutions by 2020. The Alliance
- promotes cookstove standards
- researches and develops new technologies to make stoves that are more efficient and that last longer
- tests stoves in the laboratory and in the field under real cooking conditions
- educates families about the dangers of using current cooking practices
- makes stoves affordable for all
- creates opportunities to start new businesses that will produce and distribute the new stoves.
CDC’s role in the Alliance is reducing the public health threats of the current stoves. Experts across CDC are working together to
- document the health benefits of clean, safe cooking
- reduce exposure and emissions
- improve safety
- promote the adoption of clean stoves
- lower cost and increase availability of safe cookstoves
Much work remains. Questions have been raised about whether the new cookstoves increase pollution rather than reduce it. There is also concern that families won’t adopt improved stoves if they are not easy to operate and don’t offer ongoing benefits. These are legitimate questions that must be answered by further research and testing. For the Alliance to be successful, we must understand the current habits, cultures, and economies of the populations at risk and use this information to make the most effective choices.
The Alliance does not yet have all the answers about clean cooking solutions or the cleanest cookstoves and fuel. Indeed, discovering and testing those solutions is the very reason the Alliance was created. We do face challenges, but CDC has never been an agency that backs down from a challenge. We will continue to support and participate in the development of stove standards and testing, research and evaluation, and public health programs to find the best solutions to reduce indoor air pollution from cookstoves and fires. Our goal is to save the lives of women and children around the world and help them to prosper by protecting them from the harmful health effects caused by these cooking practices.