Fuel smoke linked to cardiovascular issues

August 6, 2013 by Julia Evangelou Strait
Fuel smoke linked to cardiovascular issues
A Peruvian woman cooks in her home, filling the air with smoke. Researchers have linked such smoke to cardiovascular problems. Credit: William Checkley

(Medical Xpress)—Rural households in developing countries often rely on burning biomass, such as wood, animal dung and waste from agricultural crops, to cook and heat their homes. The practice is long known to cause lung disease, but a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine links the resulting smoke to cardiovascular problems, including an increase in artery-clogging plaques, artery thickness and higher blood pressure.

"In these homes, you can hardly see your hand in front of your face when families are cooking or burning fuel for heat," said Washington University cardiologist Victor Davila-Roman, MD, professor of medicine. "Everyone in the household is affected, but women in particular take the brunt of it because they are home much of the day and do the cooking."

The researchers, including the study's first author, Matthew Scott Painschab, MD, a School of Medicine graduate who did this work as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fogarty Scholar, studied 266 men and women in Puno, Peru, and the surrounding rural communities. People in the city, which has a population of about 100,000, primarily use cleaner fuels including liquid propane gas, kerosene and electricity to cook. In contrast, people in the surrounding communities use open-fire stoves.

Reporting their results recently in the journal Heart, the investigators found that indoor particulate matter measured 20 times higher in the rural homes. Comparing the two groups, they also found significantly thicker carotid arteries – the vessels that feed blood to the brain – in the rural , even after adjusting for age, gender, , and other factors known to affect cardiovascular health. The rural residents also had more in the carotid arteries and higher blood pressure than their city-dwelling counterparts. Such factors are known to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

"Our study brings attention to the fact that reducing biomass fuel smoke through improved cook stove programs could potentially decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke in resource-limited settings," said Johns Hopkins University pulmonologist William Checkley, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, who co-mentored Painschab with Davila-Roman.

With 90 percent of rural households worldwide burning biomass fuel, the researchers say their data highlights a major public health problem. Davila-Roman said the study and others like it lay the groundwork for future trials that look at the effects of altering these cooking stoves to direct the smoke outside the home.

"The alterations can't be too expensive," Davila-Roman said. "And even with a reasonable cost, we have to have solid evidence to convince the people making the decisions that modifying these stoves is worthwhile."

Explore further: Indoor air pollution linked to cardiovascular risk

More information: Painschab, M. et al. Chronic exposure to biomass fuel is associated with increased carotid artery intima-media thickness and a higher prevalence of atherosclerotic plaque, Heart. Online April 25, 2013.

Related Stories

Indoor air pollution linked to cardiovascular risk

July 8, 2011
An estimated two billion people in the developing world heat and cook with a biomass fuel such as wood, but the practice exposes people – especially women – to large doses of small-particle air pollution, which ...

Ceramic indoor cookstove use did not significantly lower child pneumonia risk in rural Kenya

December 12, 2012
Inexpensive, locally-produced ceramic cookstoves may produce less smoke than traditional indoor 3-stone firepits, but they don't significantly reduce indoor air pollution or the risk of pneumonia in young children, according ...

Clean cookstoves unaffordable to Bangladeshi women

June 29, 2012
Women in rural Bangladesh prefer inexpensive, traditional stoves for cooking over modern ones despite significant health risks, according to a Yale study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pollutants from incense smoke cause human lung-cell inflammation

August 2, 2013
Burning incense, a popular cultural practice in Arabian Gulf countries and elsewhere, generates indoor air pollutants that may cause inflammation in human lung cells, say researchers in the Gillings School of Global Public ...

Recommended for you

One in 4 women and 1 in 6 men aged 65+ will be physically disabled in Europe by 2047

October 23, 2017
By 2047 one in four women and one in six men aged 65 and above is expected to be living with a physical disability that will severely restrict everyday activities, reveals an analysis published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Protein regulates vitamin A metabolic pathways, prevents inflammation

October 23, 2017
A team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have discovered how uncontrolled vitamin A metabolism in the gut can cause harmful inflammation. The discovery links diet to inflammatory diseases, ...

New insights into controversial diagnosis of adolescent chronic fatigue

October 23, 2017
Crucial new research could provide some clarity around the controversy surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in adolescents. The research by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute published ...

Do boys really have a testosterone spurt at age four?

October 23, 2017
The idea that four-year-old boys have a spurt of testosterone is often used to explain challenging behaviour at this age.

Our laws don't do enough to protect our health data

October 23, 2017
Have you ever wondered why your computer often shows you ads that seem tailor-made for your interests? The answer is big data. By combing through extremely large datasets, analysts can reveal patterns in your behavior.

New prevention exercise programme to reduce rugby injuries

October 23, 2017
A new dynamic 20-minute exercise programme, performed by rugby players before training and pre-match, could dramatically reduce injuries in the sport according to a benchmark study published today (Sunday 22 October).

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.