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The Least Known Way to Save 2 Million Lives

BY RELEVANT CURRENT / GLOBAL / ISSUE 55 February 10, 2012

Most Westerners are familiar with the giant pandemics that kill and sicken millions around the world. AIDS, malaria, cholera and hepatitis are immediately familiar problems to anyone concerned with social justice.

But scientists have just discovered something else that kills millions of people each year, and it’s not a disease: It’s fumes from primitive cooking stoves. The National Institute of Health (NIH), a U.S. medical research agency, says a replacement program for older stoves could save up to 2 million people each year. Approximately 3 billion people worldwide use traditional or open cooking stoves, which can fill houses with dense smoke and give residents many diseases usually associated with longtime smokers, such as lung cancer, pneumonia and lung disease.

The United Nations Foundation’s Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is seeking to stem the tide of using unsafe cooking stoves around the world. Their hope is to get 100 million better stoves by 2020 into the homes of people who currently use outdated forms of cooking.

The NIH researchers also found the people primarily impacted by the unsafe cooking stoves are women and children, who are frequently the ones responsible for gathering fuel and cooking food. Additionally, the newer stoves are more fuel efficient, which would help prevent deforestation and degradation of natural resources.