The Importance of Clean Cookstoves

clean cookstoves
On March 10, Senator Susan Collins of Maine introduced the Clean Cookstoves Support Act. The bill has received support since being introduced. It is co-sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. In order for the bill to receive more support, though, people must understand why clean cookstoves are so essential to the well-being of people in developing countries.

According to the World Health Organization, 4.3 million deaths were caused by cookstove smoke emissions in the year 2012 alone. This number is shockingly high, but maybe not as surprising with the knowledge that over half of the world’s population currently cooks over unclean and dangerous surfaces.

By cooking over open-air fires or dirty cookstoves, families are putting themselves at risk. The smoke from the fire releases harmful toxins into the air that can get trapped in a kitchen space and cause diseases. When the same smoke is released through unsanitary cookstoves, the risk of illness is even higher.

The smoke is also bad for a person’s lungs. Damage done to the respiratory system is detrimental to long-term health and can make accomplishing simple, every-day tasks more difficult.

Because of familial roles in many developing countries, unsanitary cooking conditions have affected women and children more than men. As a result, the average age of death will become lower. Women with smoke-related illnesses experience a great deal of difficulty in child birth, and high child mortality rates are never good for a country’s statistics.

Aside from health related issues, a family would benefit from replacing old cookstoves and open-air fires because the new methods are so much more efficient. The Justa wood conserving stove, for example, is 70 percent more efficient than a regular stove. Families can save a lot of money by switching to safer methods of cooking and heating.

U.S. citizens should also realize that the Clean Cookstoves Act would have a positive global impact as well. Cleaner cookstoves and more efficient methods release fewer chemicals into the air. Therefore, the strain on the environment is reduced. In order to stop or slow climate change on a global scale, the world needs to take action in areas of the developing world that are emitting harmful chemicals without knowing.

If passed, the bill would initiate the replacement of dangerous cookstoves with more efficient ones in 100 million homes by 2020.

Supporting the bill and funding its causes will help families learn how to burn wood more efficiently and provide the money necessary to refurnish kitchen areas in more environmentally conscious ways.

Senator Collins calls the Clean Cookstoves Support Act the “low-hanging fruit” of sustainable development goals. Unsafe and unsanitary cookstoves are a quick and easy fix that just require a little bit of planning and additional funding. With these resources, the bill could change the lives of millions of people combatting harmful diseases and other negative effects of inefficient open-air fires and dirty cookstoves.

– Emily Walthouse

Sources: American Society of Civil Engineers, The Borgen Project, Govtrack, Susan Collins
Photo: Clean Cookstoves