Culinary Toxicity: The Dangers of Cooking on Traditional Stoves

By: Dylan Rodgers

When looking for apartments or houses in the US, it is common to wonder whether the kitchen stove his run by electricity or gas.  At least in my time, I haven't seen any other options.  It may come as a shock that nearly half the people on the planet still use open flame, cooking stoves fueled by wood, coal, or dung.  These traditional stoves wouldn't be a problem if given the proper ventilation ducting, but the fact is that the majority of developing countries that use these stoves are poisoning themselves every time they cook.

Approximately 1.9 million people die each year from the toxicity bellowing out their stoves, making it the fifth largest health risk to developing countries.  To put it more bluntly, that's about one death every 16 seconds; and those that continue to live in these conditions are plagued with pneumonia, emphysema, lung cancer, bronchitis, cardiovascular disease, and low birth weights.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton established the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an organization led by the United Nations Foundation.  Their goal is to assist 100 million homes to adopt cleaner, more efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.  The Alliance is pushing for electric and solar powered stoves though helping these families obtain cooking technologies to burn coal and wood safely would be a major step in the right direction.

Chef Jose Andres has taken the position as "culinary ambassador" for the Alliance.  After spending time in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake disaster, he saw the "dirty cooking conditions" first hand.  His role in all of this is to raise awareness worldwide.

For more information on this movement, visit the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves website, and find out how you can help the cause.

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Photo: Ikhlasul Amal