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The Health Effects of Heating and Cooking in the Home





MCS America

Lourdes Salvador's Column

...Co-founder of MCS America discusses the latest Multiple Chemical Sensitivity issues.









Lourdes Salvador volunteers as a writer and social advocate for the recognition of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). She was a passionate advocate for the homeless and worked with her local governor to provide services to the homeless through a new approach she created to end homelessness. That passion soon turned to advocacy and activism for people with MCS and the medical professionals who serve them. She co-founded MCS Awareness in 2005 and went on to found MCS America in 2006. She serves as a partner for Environmental Education Week, a partner for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), and a supporter for the American Cancer Society: Campaign for Smokefree Air.


For more information visit MCS America




Monday, Septeber 15th, 2008:


The Health Effects of Heating and Cooking in the Home


by Lourdes Salvador



It is estimated that around 3 billion people worldwide rely on wood, stubble, dung and leaves for cooking fuel according to researchers at Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, Division of Child Health, University of Leicester, UK. In addition, wood stoves are utilized as a low cost means of heating homes.


Burning these biomass fuels, though economical, results in exposure to high levels of indoor air pollution and is therefore a concern, particularly for susceptible individuals.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says "Wood smoke contains a mixture of gases and fine particles that can cause burning eyes, runny nose, and bronchitis. Fine particles can aggravate heart or respiratory problems, such as asthma, in people of all ages. Even limited exposure to smoke can be harmful to human health, particularly for children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions."


Inhaling particulate matter from biomass fuel smoke increases morbidity and mortality, respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer in women. Rural women, 80% of whom use biomass fuel, are 200-300% more likely to suffer from respiratory disease. What´s more, their children also develop more respiratory diseases.


Many women, while aware that smoke has a negative impact on their own health, don´t think that it can have the same effect on their children. Upon learning of this risk, most women are open to changing their cooking and heating methods. Using biomass fuels outdoors greatly reduces indoor pollution when finances or accessibility limit ability to replace wood burning stoves.


Researchers at the Center for Environmental Health Sciences, University of Montana-Missoula, reviewed a woodstove change-out program shown to reduce particulate matter in the homes of a Rocky Mountain valley community.


The replacement of old, polluting woodstoves with new EPA-certified units resulted in a remarkable particulate matter reduction of 70% inside the home.


There is a downside, however. Resin acids and natural chemicals found in the bark of wood increased with the use of the new woodstove.


The use of wood stoves should be avoided whenever possible. New EPA-certified wood stoves are preferable. The EPA suggests cleaner heating alternatives, such as stoves that use vented natural gas, propane, pellet, oil, or gas; however, those with asthma, chemical sensitivity, respiratory disease, and other breathing ailments, it is essential to avoid the use of any of these materials.


Electric stoves provide a viable alternative for cooking; however some people may suffer from electrosensitivity reactions due to the large amounts of electromagnetic fields generated by electric appliances. In addition, the chemically sensitive may need to off-gas new appliances prior to use.


One alternative which is commonly used to warm rooms through floors is radiant heating. There are three types of radiant heat that can be delivered through floors, air, electric, and hot water. Water is the most popular and cost-effective


It is always best to do extensive research and testing prior to moving or making any purchase.




Edelstein M, Pitchforth E, Asres G, Silverman M, Kulkarni N. Awareness of health effects of cooking smoke among women in the Gondar Region of Ethiopia: a pilot survey. BMC Int Health Hum Rights. 2008 Jul 18;8:10.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Healthier Home, Cleaner Environment. March 20th, 2008. Retrieved on August 20, 2008 from:


Ward T, Noonan C. Results of a residential indoor PM sampling program before and after a woodstove changeout. Indoor Air. 2008 Jul 28. [Epub ahead of print]



For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.


Copyrighted 2008 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America



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