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Safe cooking reduces health risks in pregnancy – Study

By Sola Ogundipe

AS it is becoming increasingly difficult  to afford conventional fuels in Nigeria, a new study led by a team from the University of Chicago, says shifting from a cookstove that burns traditional wood fuel to a stove that uses a cleaner-burning fuel such as ethanol, may mitigate cardiovascular health risks in pregnant women.

The study, which evaluated 324 pregnant women, monitored the impact of transitioning from traditional firewood or kerosene cookstoves to ethanol-burning stoves on biomarkers of systemic inflammation  in women from their first to third trimesters of pregnancy.

Cooking with firewood is a potential cardiovascular health risk for pregnant women.

In a remark, a Professor of Medicine and Clinical Director of the Centre for Global Health at the University of Chicago, which led the research, Dr. Christopher Olopade, noted that  shifting from traditional cooking with firewood to clean fuels, including ethanol, may improve women’s cardiovascular health.

“We also found that the women preferred to use the new ethanol stoves, so much so that over 80 per cent are still using their ethanol stoves upon completion of the study.”

Globally, nearly 3 billion people still rely on open fires and traditional, solid fuel-burning stoves to cook their food, causing between 3 and 4 million deaths a year and widespread health impacts.

In Nigeria, wood fuel as a source of energy plays a vital role in household energy requirements, and many people are finding it increasingly difficult to afford conventional fuels in Nigeria.

Research shows that 75 percent of the population relies on heavily-polluting solid fuels, resulting in household air pollution that causes more than 70,000 deaths each year.

The randomized controlled trial, published in the journal Environment International, explored differences in biomarkers of systemic inflammation among women using traditional wood, kerosene, and ethanol stoves.

Biomarkers RBP (retinol binding protein), IL-6 (interluikin-6), IL-8, TNF-a (tumour necrosis factor alpha), and MDA (malondialdehyde) were assessed at baseline and during the 3rd trimester.  TNF- a levels were 68 per cent  lower in firewood users who switched to ethanol.

Similar trends were observed for IL-6.  Significant changes were not observed for other biomarkers assessed.  These results suggest that shifting from cooking with firewood to clean fuels, including ethanol, can deliver significant health impacts. The project was supported by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, with UK aid from the British people.

Researchers are finalising additional data analysis from the Nigeria study and plan to publish results on both maternal health and birth outcomes in early 2017.


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