Travails of the Kitchen

Dependence on firewood continues even in a flood-hit village in Koppal district. (Pic: Savita Hiremath).

Cooking fuels and stoves still make up for most of kitchen fuel needs across India. Use of forest wood, cow dung and other such biomass keep the house warm beyond being used merely for cooking.

What people don’t seem to see that the constant churn of smoke in a house can harm the lungs more than when such wood is used for cooking. The reason is: cooking on stove takes a longer time, so the woman goes into the kitchen only once a while to check if the food is done. This reduces her exposure to smoke.

Using biomass for heating results in more exposure as there is a deliberate attempt to minimize ventilation as the family sits around the fire. Kerosene is more of a risk than biomass as burning of biomass produces dense smoke that makes the eyes smart. So people stay away and avoid inhaling the fumes. But sitting right next to a kerosene lamp or lantern causes far less discomfort while exposing one to fine particulate matter and other lung-damaging chemicals.

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