Victoria Namutebi Wamala
Are you using firewood or charcoal for cooking?
Did you know that this practice exposes your family members to diseases?
As they burn, firewood and charcoal, emit smoke which pollutes household air, posing serious health risks to the occupants.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), family members’ chronic exposure to this household air pollution is the LEADING cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease, stroke, lung cancer, Cataract and childhood pneumonia globally.
WHO further estimates that over 3 billion people relied on polluting-energy-sources for cooking in 2016, leading to almost 4 million deaths each year and contributing significantly to ambient air pollution.
The good news however, is that the disease burden can be reduced and the death statistics reversed using clean cooking means.
Over the years, majority of Ugandans moved on from using firewood for cooking to using charcoal stoves. Today, a few have further moved on to using electricity and gas for cooking, but these are the minority.
What then, would be the solution for the majority that may not be in position to afford electricity and gas?
Clean cook stoves!
A clean cook stove burns wood more efficiently lowering the amount of disease-causing smoke thus improving the indoor air quality.
In Uganda, efforts are underway to ensure availability of clean cook stoves that meet the necessary standards to save millions of Ugandans from the disease burden and support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) focused on health and climate action;
- Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has worked with Center for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC) and recognized CREEC Laboratory for testing of cook stoves under the UNBS Laboratory Recognition scheme.
- UNBS participated in the expert consultation meeting convened by WHO in partnership with Clean Cooking Alliance to share recommendations and provide technical assistance relating to WHO Guidelines for indoor air quality: household fuel combustion, particularly pertaining to the importance of setting national standards for clean cook stoves and clean cooking solutions.During the meeting, WHO recommended that unprocessed coal should not be used as a household fuel because it contains toxins (fluorine, arsenic, mercury etc) which are not destroyed on combustion, and that it is very difficult to burn coal cleanly in a home.
- With funding support from UN Foundation/GACC, UNBS has reviewed and issued US 761:2019, Household biomass stoves – Requirements (2nd Edition) and has been working with Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to improve their products and acquire product certification.After the review, implementation of Household biomass stoves standard was made voluntary for two years, starting January 2019, to allow a smooth transition as manufacturers of these clean cook stoves adjust to it.
After 2020, the implementation will be mandatory and all clean cook stove manufacturers will have to comply with the set standards.
On the other hand, consumers will be required to look out for the labeling information and certification status of the products before purchasing them.
With all these efforts in place, only time will tell whether the burden of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease, stroke, lung cancer, cataract and childhood pneumonia will be curbed in the near future.
The writer is a Public Relations Officer at Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS).