One in three people around the world will still be using polluting fuels like charcoal and wood to cook by 2030, a new report has warned.
Charcoal and wood fuel not only damage the environment, they can cause severe health issues in people exposed to them.
The research, conducted with the World Health Organization (WHO), estimates that by 2030, just under 3 billion people worldwide – including more than 1 billion in sub-Saharan Africa – will still be using the dangerous fuels to cook food.
These "dirty" fuels are a source of major health risk as they produce high levels of household air pollution – chronic exposure to which increases the risk of heart disease, pneumonia, lung cancer and strokes, among other conditions.
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While the overall percentage of the global population mainly using polluting cooking fuels has been steadily decreasing since 1990, this trend is showing signs of stagnation.
Six in 10 people in rural areas are still reliant on biomass fuels such as wood and charcoal.
The lead author of the study, Dr Oliver Stoner, who carried out the research at the University of Exeter but is now at the University of Glasgow, said: "Analysing global trends suggests incremental progress in the direction of clean cooking fuels, but the simple reality is that there can be no global success while the number of people using polluting fuels in sub-Saharan Africa grows by tens of millions every year."
Senior author Heather Adair-Rohani, technical lead on health and energy in the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, said: "Accelerating access to clean cooking solutions must be a developmental priority.
“Ensuring the sustained adoption of clean cooking solutions can prevent disease and improve the livelihoods of the poorest populations as well as protect our climate.
"While our analysis already paints a bleak picture, we don't yet know the full extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened or even undone recent progress."
A study released this year analysed the health effects of air pollution (and where it was coming from) in 200 countries.
The researchers say pollution from cars and industry is only part of the problem as PM2.5 – tiny particles that can go into people’s lungs – can make people ill if they cook every night on a stove.
Professor Randall Martin of Washington University in St. Louis said, "PM2.5 is the world's leading environmental risk factor for mortality. Our key objective is to understand its sources.”
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