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14.12.2007 Health

Research on effect of biomass on health begins

By Daily Graphic
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The Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC), has begun evaluating the impact of smoke from inefficient burning of biomass fuel on the health of people in the Kintampo district.

The study, which is in partnership with the Biomass Working Group at the Columbia University, is aimed at finding clean-burning cooking stoves among households in the area to help control respiratory diseases like colds and coughs said to be caused by smoke from biomass fuel.

In Ghana, over 97 per cent of rural households cook with biomass fuels, which according to the World Bank, is a major contributor to respiratory tract diseases like pneumonia in children and women.

Briefing journalists from the Africa Media and Malaria Research Centre on the study, a Clinical Research Fellow of the KHRC, Dr.
Kwaku Poku Asante, said specially designed cooking stoves would be distributed to 400 households early next year for the research.
The stoves, he explained, reduces the level of smoke from burning biomass fuel like charcoals and firewood while firewood and charcoal used by people, especially those in the rural areas, put mothers and children at risk of getting respiratory tract infections.

Globally, he said that, about three billion people cook with biomass fuels, which lead to approximately 1.6 million excess deaths a year, adding that "the problem arise when households burn solid fuels using inefficient combustion technologies".

Dr. Asante said that a survey to gather basic information about the cooking practices of 140,000 people in the Kintampo district has already been conducted and the result is being analysed.

He said that the KHRC has acquired special equipment for measuring smoke levels, noting that after the distribution of the cooking stoves to the households, the KHRC will measure the level of smoke from it, and compare it with the smoke from their inefficient combustion technologies.

He said that by the middle of next year, the final results of the study would be ready to pave the way for a prospective intervention aimed at reducing the burden of respiratory diseases in the area.

β€œThe results of the ultimate interventional study will be important in the control of respiratory diseases in Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa as a whole if found to be beneficial," he pointed out.

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