Smoke signals


Smoke signalsFor many of us, wood-burning stoves evoke a cozy nostalgia. They are also one of the top five contributors to global mortality and disease rates, and the single largest environmental health risk factor, says Dr. Jill Baumgartner, Assistant Professor, Insitute for Health and Social Policy and Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill.

Almost half the world’s population—3 billion people—cook with traditional wood-burning stoves. Exposure to wood smoke has been associated with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as cancer. At greatest risk are women and children, who spend the most time around these devices.

Baumgartner’s interdisciplinary research team works with the Chinese government in the Tibetan Plateau to introduce prototype stoves using more efficient, less polluting biomass pellets. These prototypes have an added advantage: heat that goes out of the chimney is reused to heat water, “so they meet muliple energy needs at the same time.” The initial results are promising. “People are using them—and consistently,” says Baumgartner. (Juliet Waters)

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