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Polluting cooking fuels will risk health past 2030

18 January 2022

2 minutes to read

Polluting cooking fuels will risk health past 2030

New evidence predicts that more than one in three people worldwide will still mainly be using polluting cooking fuels and technologies in 2030, despite being a significant source of disease and environmental destruction. 

This figure increases to 4 in 5 in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of people using mainly polluting fuels continues to rise at a troubling rate.

The study was carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UK researchers. Dr Oliver Stoner, leader of the research at Exeter University and now a lecturer at Glasgow University, was awarded funding for the project through an ESRC Impact Accelerator Account Knowledge Exchange Fellowship via the University of Exeter’s Translational Funding team.

Their research estimates that just under 3 billion people worldwide will still use polluting fuels, such as wood and charcoal, at the end of the decade.

Although the overall rate of the global population using polluting fuels has decreased steadily since 1990, this trend is already subsiding. In rural areas, six in ten people are still reliant on biomass fuels. 

Continually using these dirty fuels can lead to a wide range of major health risks – including pneumonia, heart disease, strokes, and lung cancer – as they produce elevated levels of household air pollution. Annually, millions of premature deaths are attributed to exposure to household air pollution.

These polluting cooking practices are also a significant cause of environmental destruction and climate change. It’s estimated that producing black carbon from biomass cooking accounts for a quarter of global emissions of this kind every year, and around 30% of wood fuels harvested globally are unsustainable.

Dr Stoner’s research concludes that, although progress has been made, there is a long way to go to ensure universal access to clean cooking by 2030. Global leaders and policymakers must work quickly to help combat the health and environmental risks.

Read the complete study in Nature Communications

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Dr Oliver Stoner
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