Nicaragua: Healthy Stoves Healthy Families

More than half of the world’s population relies on biomass combustion to meet basic domestic energy needs. Indoor cookstoves can result in extremely high levels of indoor air pollution and can lead to severe respiratory and other health problems. The World Health Organization estimates that pollution from these stoves kills over 1.6 million people worldwide each year.

Traditional indoor cookstoves can result in extremely high levels of Indoor Air Pollution (IAP), a serious health issue in the developing world. IAP is linked to Acute Respiratory Infections (ARIs) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), both major causes of illness and death. Traditional cookstoves that emit hazardous wood smoke are the main contributors of IAP. Women, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to the toxic gases and fumes, and IAP is the leading cause of morbidity and death for children under five years of age in Latin America. Improved stove technology and commercialization projects have proven very successful at eliminating IAP because they incorporate chimneys into their design which vent the harmful smoke outside the kitchen.

There are solutions to this massive global health problem. In the summer of 2008, a group of Colorado State University students working with Professor Jennifer Peel and Trees, Water & People traveled to El Fortin- a barrio of Granada, Nicaragua- to assess the exposures and health of families using traditional indoor cookstoves.

The families in El Fortin received an improved, more energy-efficient stove with a proper ventilation system. In the summer of 2009, we will return to the community to assess the effectiveness of the new stoves in reducing exposure and improving the health of these families. The study will provide critical evidence about the success of these stoves as a potential solution to this problem affecting families worldwide.

For more information about TWP’s “Improved Cookstove Intervention to Assess Changes in Woodsmoke Exposures and Health Status among Nicaraguan Families” project please go to

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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