Proinflammatory effects of cookstove emissions on human bronchial epithelial cells


J. Volckens
Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences
Campus Delivery, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO, USA
Tel.: (970) 491-6341
Fax: (970) 491-2940


Abstract  Approximately half of the world’s population uses biomass fuel for indoor cooking and heating. This form of combustion typically occurs in open fires or primitive stoves. Human exposure to emissions from indoor biomass combustion is a global health concern, causing an estimated 1.5 million premature deaths each year. Many ‘improved’ stoves have been developed to address this concern; however, studies that examine exposure-response with cleaner-burning, more efficient stoves are few. The objective of this research was to evaluate the effects of traditional and cleaner-burning stove emissions on an established model of the bronchial epithelium. We exposed well-differentiated, normal human bronchial epithelial cells to emissions from a single biomass combustion event using either a traditional three-stone fire or one of two energy-efficient stoves. Air–liquid interface cultures were exposed using a novel, aerosol-to-cell deposition system. Cellular expression of a panel of three pro-inflammatory markers was evaluated at 1 and 24 h following exposure. Cells exposed to emissions from the cleaner-burning stoves generated significantly fewer amounts of pro-inflammatory markers than cells exposed to emissions from a traditional three-stone fire. Particulate matter emissions from each cookstove were substantially different, with the three-stone fire producing the largest concentrations of particles (by both number and mass). This study supports emerging evidence that more efficient cookstoves have the potential to reduce respiratory inflammation in settings where solid fuel combustion is used to meet basic domestic needs.

Practical Implications

Emissions from more efficient, cleaner-burning cookstoves produced less inflammation in well-differentiated bronchial lung cells. The results support evidence that more efficient cookstoves can reduce the health burden associated with exposure to indoor pollution from the combustion of biomass.