In response to a call from the World Health Organization, scientists from the American Thoracic Society conducted a study showing the dangers of firewood- and kerosene-powered cookstoves and heating tools used in the developing world and the benefits of transitioning to ethanol stoves.
"Although previous studies found that exposure to household air pollution increased the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, no randomized, controlled trial had investigated whether clean-burning fuel would reduce the incidence of hypertension in pregnant women," said lead study author Christopher O. Olopade, MD, MPH.
324 pregnant women from a city in Nigeria were recruited for a study, and none of the women smoked, lived with someone who smoked, cooked for a living, or were hypertensive at the beginning of the study. Each participant was randomized into the study between their 16th and 18th week of pregnancy.
Each woman had previously cooked with either firewood or kerosene in their home. Half of the group were assigned to continue cooking like normal, and the other half were randomly assigned to switch to cooking with clean-burning ethanol stoves. During six patient visits, researchers involved in the study collected blood pressure readings.
They found that 64 percent of the women continuing to cook with wood or kerosene became hypertensive compared to less than two percent of women from the ethanol group. Specifically, the wood and kerosene women were more likely to show an increase in diastolic blood pressure, but not significant change was seen in systolic blood pressure.
"The results of our study add to the evidence that vulnerable populations, especially pregnant women, would gain important health benefits from stoves that burn clean fuels," Dr. Olopade said. "Additional studies are still needed to determine how much of a reduction in exposure levels will result in significant and sustained health benefits."
This study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Source: American Thoracic Society