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J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2012;15(6):396-432. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2012.710134.

Kerosene: a review of household uses and their hazards in low- and middle-income countries.

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Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-7367, USA.


Kerosene has been an important household fuel since the mid-19th century. In developed countries its use has greatly declined because of electrification. However, in developing countries, kerosene use for cooking and lighting remains widespread. This review focuses on household kerosene uses, mainly in developing countries, their associated emissions, and their hazards. Kerosene is often advocated as a cleaner alternative to solid fuels, biomass and coal, for cooking, and kerosene lamps are frequently used when electricity is unavailable. Globally, an estimated 500 million households still use fuels, particularly kerosene, for lighting. However, there are few studies, study designs and quality are varied, and results are inconsistent. Well-documented kerosene hazards are poisonings, fires, and explosions. Less investigated are exposures to and risks from kerosene's combustion products. Some kerosene-using devices emit substantial amounts of fine particulates, carbon monoxide (CO), nitric oxides (NO(x)), and sulfur dioxide (SO(2)). Studies of kerosene used for cooking or lighting provide some evidence that emissions may impair lung function and increase infectious illness (including tuberculosis), asthma, and cancer risks. However, there are few study designs, quality is varied, and results are inconsistent. Considering the widespread use in the developing world of kerosene, the scarcity of adequate epidemiologic investigations, the potential for harm, and the implications for national energy policies, researchers are strongly encouraged to consider collecting data on household kerosene uses in studies of health in developing countries. Given the potential risks of kerosene, policymakers may consider alternatives to kerosene subsidies, such as shifting support to cleaner technologies for lighting and cooking.

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