A charcoal stove in Juba, South Sudan (Photo: Andreea Campeanu/Reuters)
Reducing pollution from cookstoves used in developing nations could save one million lives every year and help combat global warming, according to a study by the World Bank. But the cost of more efficient, safer stoves needs to come down so that more households can afford to use them, the study finds.
At the moment, many people in developing nations cook food on open wood or coal fires, exposing them to respiratory difficulties, heart disease and other health problems.
The report, "On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution Can Slow Warming And Save Lives," calls for tough limits on pollution from methane and soot. The title refers to the way that those pollutants settle on snow and ice, darkening them and speeding up global warming.
"The damage from indoor cooking smoke alone is horrendous — every year, four million people die from exposure to the smoke," World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said in a statement, Trust.org reports. Women and children are especially hard hit by the health effects, the study finds.
Mass producing more efficient stoves (which use fans to improve combustion, or burn less-polluting fuels) should bring the cost per unit down to a few dollars. And the positive effects on the environment could also help save lives.
"If we act fast and cut common pollutants like soot and methane we can slow the rate of warming... And if we did so we can save millions of lives," Rachel Kyte, World Bank vice president for sustainable development, told a news conference.
As well as recommendations on stoves, the study also finds that restricting diesel emissions from car exhausts and other sources could avert another 340,000 premature deaths yearly around the world.
The report was produced in collaboration with the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative.