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

Over half of the world’s population is breathing in extremely polluted air every time they cook. The World Health Organization estimates that around three billion people cook and heat their homes with open fires and stoves with improper fumigation techniques.

The Global Burden of Disease Study (2010) found and documented the effects of various diseases around the world and found in effect that smog and pollution from cooking campfires is one of the top five causes of deaths around the globe every year. Such cases amount to upwards of four million deaths a year, which are more than the deaths from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) had the Clean Cookstoves Support Act introduced on March 10, 2014. Collins introduced the bill saying that, “It can be done relatively quickly and inexpensively and would improve lives, empower women and combat pollution around the world.” According to information provided from the senator’s official website, over half of the world’s population cooks over unsafe and unclean cookstoves. The Clean Cookstoves Support act, co-sponsored by Sen. Dick Durban (D-Ill.), is designed to help implement the utilization and acquisition of clean cookstoves for those in developing countries.

The act requires that the Secretary of State work closely with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and help to insure that the Alliance’s goals are coming to fruition. The Global Alliance was founded by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the United Nations with the goal of getting clean burning and effective cookstoves into 100 million homes by 2020. The Act also requires that several federal departments such as the State Department, the Department of Energy and others commit to securing funding for the Global Alliances for Clean Cookstoves mission. Sen. Collin’s website states that over $125 million dollars has already been committed for the Alliance.

The environmental impact from the burning of unclean fuel in stoves that are not working properly is also extremely hazardous to the world as a whole. Studies cited in the act (and by leading scientific authorities) show that cookstoves are contributing to a quarter of black carbon emissions around the world. Also, the average family uses around two tons of fuel in traditional cookstoves, which contributes to the deforestation of regions that can ill afford to lose precious natural resources. Replacing these cookstoves with more technologically up-to-date versions will save millions of lives as well as reduce the harmful impact that they exact on the environment every single day.

The Clean Cookstoves Support Act is an example of the type of progressive, forward-thinking legislation that can help those in need as well as benefit the entire globe with a relatively simple fix. The little act of making sure that a stove runs more efficiently and allows people all around the world to cook without endangering their health is a truly remarkable and wonderful thing.

– Arthur Fuller

Sources: WHO, GovTrack, Susan Collins, NPR, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
Photo: UN Foundation