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Indoor Air. 2007 Dec;17(6):468-74.

Indoor air pollution from biomass combustion and respiratory symptoms of women and children in a Zimbabwean village.

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  • 1Curtin University of Technology, School of Public Health, Occupational and Environmental Health, Perth, WA, Australia.


Rural areas of developing countries are particularly reliant on biomass for cooking and heating. Women and children in these areas are often exposed to high levels of pollutants from biomass combustion that is associated with a range of respiratory symptoms. Domestic exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) and respirable particles (RSPs) in association with respiratory symptoms among women and children in Zimbabwe was investigated in 48 households. Health status and household characteristics were also recorded. In this study, indoor levels of CO and RSPs exceeded World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines in over 95% of kitchens. The level of indoor air pollutants was associated with the area of kitchen windows and the length of cooking time combined with the level of fire combustion. Prevalence of respiratory symptoms was 94% for women and 77% for children. In addition, women reporting respiratory symptoms were exposed to higher levels of RSPs when compared with those reporting no respiratory symptoms. The study results indicated that levels of indoor air pollutants in rural Zimbabwe may contribute to respiratory symptoms in both women and children.


Levels of respirable particles and carbon monoxide in kitchens in rural Zimbabwe are unacceptably high and measures to reduce levels should be undertaken. Based on the study findings, recommendations for increasing the area of kitchen windows may be considered as a practical method of reducing indoor air pollutants in rural Zimbabwe.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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