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Keywords:

  • Indoor air pollution;
  • Biomass fuels;
  • Improved stoves;
  • Carbon monoxide;
  • Exposure assessment;
  • East Africa

Abstract  Household use of biomass fuels is a major source of indoor air pollution and poor health in developing countries. We conducted a cross-sectional investigation in rural Kenya to assess household air pollution in homes with traditional three-stone stove and rocket mud stove (RMS), a low-cost unvented wood stove. We conducted continuous measurements of kitchen carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations and personal exposures in 102 households. Median 48-h kitchen and personal CO concentrations were 7.3 and 6.5 ppm, respectively, for three-stone stoves, while the corresponding concentrations for RMS were 5.8 and 4.4 ppm. After adjusting for kitchen location, ventilation, socio-economic status, and fuel moisture content, the use of RMS was associated with 33% lower levels of kitchen CO [95% Confidence Interval (CI), 64.4–25.1%] and 42% lower levels of personal CO (95% CI, 66.0–1.1%) as compared to three-stone stoves. Differences in CO concentrations by stove type were more pronounced when averaged over the cooking periods, although they were attenuated after adjusting for confounding. In conclusion, RMS appear to lower kitchen and personal CO concentrations compared to the traditional three-stone stoves but overall, the CO concentrations remain high.

Practical Implications

The rocket mud stoves (RMS) were associated with lower CO concentrations compared to three-stone stoves. However, the difference in concentrations was modest and concentrations in both stove groups exceeded the WHO guideline of 7 μg/m3, suggesting the unvented RMSs on their own are unlikely to appreciably benefit health in this population. Greater air quality benefit could be realized if the stoves were complemented with behavior change, including education on extinguishing fire when not in use as well as fuel drying, and cooking in locations that are separate from the main house.