Love to eat food cooked on the barbecue? Beware, it is associated with increased risk of respiratory illness or death, researchers warned. Compared to those who used electricity or gas, chronic and acute respiratory disease hospitalisations or deaths were 36 per cent higher among those who used wood or coal for cooking, researchers, from the University of Oxford, have found.
People who switched from solid fuels to clean-burning fuels reduced their risk to only 14 per cent higher than those who never cooked with wood or coal.
It is because solid fuels emit very high levels of pollutants especially very small particles, which penetrate deep into lungs, the researchers explained.
“The increased risk of major respiratory diseases posed by burning wood or coal can be significantly lowered by switching to a clean-burning fuel”, said Zhengming Chen, professor at the varsity’s Nuffield Department of Population Health.
“Our findings make a compelling case to speed up the global implementation of universal access to affordable clean energy, one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” Chen said.
Nearly three billion people around the world live in households that regularly burn wood, coal or other solid fuels to cook their food.
Typically, these households are found in the rural areas of low- and middle-income countries.
For the study, published in the journal American Thoracic Society, the team analysed the health records of 280,000 adults, aged 30 to 79 from 10 areas of China.
They were followed for nine years and 19,823 were either hospitalised or died following major respiratory diseases.
Of these events, 10,553 were due to asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and 7,324 were due to acute lower respiratory infections, most often pneumonia.