"Black carbon from wood burning is considered very important for climate warming. Our research shows that it may also be an important pollutant for health," says Jill Baumgartner. (Credit: Jan Hiroshi Lintvedt/Flickr)

blood pressure

Stoves raise heart risks for women in rural China

Black carbon pollution from traditional wood stoves increases the risk of cardiovascular disease for women living in developing countries.

Researchers measured the daily exposure to different types of air pollutants, including black carbon, in 280 women in China’s rural Yunnan province.

Brick home in Yunnan province, China
(Credit: Pete Robbins/Flickr)

“China’s unprecedented economic growth is fueling massive increases in industrial and motor vehicle pollution, and 700 million Chinese homes still cook with wood and coal fuels,” says Jill Baumgartner, a researcher at the Institute for the Health and Social Policy at McGill University.

“The Chinese government is setting new targets to improve its air quality. We wanted to identify the pollution sources that most impact human health to help inform these pollution control efforts.”

For the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers outfitted women with wearable air samplers that collected fine particulate matter, a size linked with adverse health effects. The particulate samples were then analyzed for different pollutant types, including black carbon. The women’s blood pressure, salt intake, physical activity, body mass index, and their proximity to highways were also measured.

Blood pressure

“We found that exposure to black carbon pollutants had the largest impact on women’s blood pressure, which directly impacts cardiovascular risk. In fact, black carbon’s effect was twice that of particulate matter, the pollutant measured most often in health studies or evaluating cleaner cookstoves,” Baumgartner says. “Black carbon from wood burning is considered very important for climate warming. Our research shows that it may also be an important pollutant for health.”

Researchers also found that women living closer to highways and exposed to both wood smoke and traffic emissions had three times higher blood pressure than women who lived away from highways.

“We found that black carbon from wood smoke negatively affects cardiovascular health, and that the health effects off wood smoke are exacerbated by co-exposure to motor vehicle emissions,” Baumgartner says.

“Policies that decrease combustion pollution by replacing inefficient wood stoves and reducing traffic pollution will likely benefit both climate and public health.”

Source: McGill University

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