Can You Spot The Health Risk?

Photo of a woman using a cookstove.

Woman cooking. India. Photo Credit: Curt Carnemark / World Bank

Nearly 3 billion people in the developing world—almost half the global population—cook food and heat their homes with traditional indoor cookstoves or open fires.

Toxic emissions from these indoor cooking fires cause low birth weights among babies; pneumonia in young children; and heart and lung problems in adults. All told, more than 2 million people die prematurely every year as a result of poorly ventilated indoor cooking fires, such as this one in India.

At the NIH, our research efforts focus on reducing the impact of existing cookstoves, while evaluating new, cleaner technologies to improve human health.


3 thoughts on “Can You Spot The Health Risk?

  1. Smoke, fire hazard , small working space seems a very risky work environment. Wood smoke contains tiny particles, inhaling particle pollutants can exacerbate existing lung disease. It’s a significant health hazard!

  2. The obvious health risk is exposure to particulate matter from cooking. The greastest concern has to do with extremely high levels of exposure during a single cooking episode; thereby increasing her lifetime risk for cardiovascular diseases. How about proper protective wear such as glasses to protect her eyes from physical hazards and proper footwear?

  3. Thank you for posting-
    NIEHS shares your priority of addressing the health burden of indoor biomass burning, which primarily affects women and small children in the poorest countries and communities around the world. We’re proud to lead the NIH in our research investment for cookstove studies and to have funded the first randomized cookstove intervention trial for childhood pneumonia, the RESPIRE study in Guatemala (

    Cookstoves are a good example of how addressing a serious infectious disease problem, like childhood pneumonia, requires a thorough understanding of the environmental exposures that are the root cause of theinfections. The issue also demonstrates how employing environmental interventions as primary prevention can lead tomultiple benefits, in this case enhancing women’s quality of life and security in addition to improving their health and the health of their children.

    More information on NIEHS involvement in cookstove research and interventions can be found at

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