Improving kitchen ventilation and switching cooking fuels may reduce the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and improve lung function, according to a recent study published in the March online issue of PLOS Medicine, “Lung Function and Incidence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease after Improved Cooking Fuels and Kitchen Ventilation: A 9-Year Prospective Cohort Study.”
The study examined nearly 1,000 eligible participants across 12 villages in southern China over a nine-year period, paying close attention to their choice of fuel and ventilation and the subsequent effects on their health. In addition, researchers provided participants with safer and healthier options for combustion fuels (biogas) used for cooking and improved kitchen ventilation in their homes. Questionnaire interviews and spirometry tests were performed in three-year intervals, while improved air quality was confirmed via measurements of indoor air pollutants in a randomly selected subset of the participants’ homes.
To determine the effect of the improved ventilation and cooking fuel, researchers compared annual declines in lung function and incidence of COPD between those participants who implemented one, both, or neither of the interventions. They found that the use of clean fuels and improved ventilation was associated with a reduced decline in lung function compared to those who took up neither intervention.
“These findings suggest that, among people living in rural southern China, the combined interventions of use of biogas instead of biomass and improved kitchen ventilation were associated with a reduced decline in lung function over time and with a reduced risk of COPD,” said the study authors.
However, due to the absence of a control or intervention group, a direct link between kitchen ventilation, cooking fuel and COPD could not be developed. Regardless, these findings suggest that “the use of biogas as a substitute for biomass for cooking and heating and improvements in kitchen ventilation might lead to a reduction in the global burden of COPD associated with biomass smoke.”