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