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A cross-sectional study of determinants of indoor environmental exposures in households with and without chronic exposure to biomass fuel smoke

Suzanne L Pollard12, D’Ann L Williams3, Patrick N Breysse3, Patrick A Baron3, Laura M Grajeda2, Robert H Gilman24, J Jaime Miranda45, William Checkley124* and CRONICAS Cohort Study Group

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, 1800 Orleans Ave, Suite 9121, Baltimore, MD, USA

2 Program in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA

3 Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA

4 CRONICAS Center of Excellence in Chronic Diseases, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru

5 Departamento de Medicina, Escuela de Medicina, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru

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Environmental Health 2014, 13:21  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-13-21

Published: 24 March 2014

Abstract

Background

Burning biomass fuels indoors for cooking is associated with high concentrations of particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide (CO). More efficient biomass-burning stoves and chimneys for ventilation have been proposed as solutions to reduce indoor pollution. We sought to quantify indoor PM and CO exposures in urban and rural households and determine factors associated with higher exposures. A secondary objective was to identify chronic vs. acute changes in cardiopulmonary biomarkers associated with exposure to biomass smoke.

Methods

We conducted a census survey followed by a cross-sectional study of indoor environmental exposures and cardiopulmonary biomarkers in the main household cook in Puno, Peru. We measured 24-hour indoor PM and CO concentrations in 86 households. We also measured PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations gravimetrically for 24 hours in urban households and during cook times in rural households, and generated a calibration equation using PM2.5 measurements.

Results

In a census of 4903 households, 93% vs. 16% of rural vs. urban households used an open-fire stove; 22% of rural households had a homemade chimney; and <3% of rural households participated in a national program encouraging installation of a chimney. Median 24-hour indoor PM2.5 and CO concentrations were 130 vs. 22 μg/m3 and 5.8 vs. 0.4 ppm (all p<0.001) in rural vs. urban households. Having a chimney did not significantly reduce median concentrations in 24-hour indoor PM2.5 (119 vs. 137 μg/m3; p=0.40) or CO (4.6 vs. 7.2 ppm; p=0.23) among rural households with and without chimneys. Having a chimney did not significantly reduce median cook-time PM2.5 (360 vs. 298 μg/m3, p=0.45) or cook-time CO concentrations (15.2 vs. 9.4 ppm, p=0.23). Having a thatched roof (p=0.007) and hours spent cooking (p=0.02) were associated with higher 24-hour average PM concentrations. Rural participants had higher median exhaled CO (10 vs. 6 ppm; p=0.01) and exhaled carboxyhemoglobin (1.6% vs. 1.0%; p=0.04) than urban participants.

Conclusions

Indoor air concentrations associated with biomass smoke were six-fold greater in rural vs. urban households. Having a homemade chimney did not reduce environmental exposures significantly. Measures of exhaled CO provide useful cardiopulmonary biomarkers for chronic exposure to biomass smoke.

Keywords:
Biomass smoke; Biomass fuel; Cookstoves; Biomarkers; Exhaled carbon monoxide; Environmental exposure