Sunday, 20 September 2009

Kitchen smoke major killer of infants in Andhra Pradesh

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Smoke from kitchen is contributing to high child and infant mortality rate in Andhra Pradesh.
According to a World Bank-sponsored study on the impact of solid biomass fuels like wood, dung and crop residues on the health of people, particularly in rural areas, smoke from conventional kitchen is found to be a contributory factor in high child and infant mortality rate in the State. Andhra Pradesh has a child mortality rate of 62 per 1000 and infant mortality rate of 70 per 1000 live births. As many as 44 infants die in the State within a month of being born. Though the mortality rate in Andhra Pradesh is below the national average, it certainly is the poor performer in South India.
The study was conducted among other institutions by the city-based Institute of Health Systems. It was found during the course of the study that over 80 per cent of people in villages still depend on biomass fuels as against non-polluting fossil fuels. Strangely enough, 24 per cent of households in urban areas too depend on wood, dung and waste from crops. Poor ventilation in many houses has added to the problem of indoor air pollution from kitchen.
"This situation leads to some of the highest-ever recorded levels of air pollution to which young children and women are exposed daily for many hours," the report points out. The study has strengthened evidence that children under five years suffer from high levels of exposures to indoor air pollution on a daily basis and this explains for one of the high rates of child and infant mortality.
Indoor air pollution is the third most risk factor threatening human health in the country and the problem is found to be relatively higher in the State. Indoor air pollution contributing to about 20 lakh premature deaths every year in the country and a majority of victims being below the age of five years. "There is also strong evidence of impact on women, up to 34,000 deaths resulting from chronic obstructive disorders," the report pointed out.
As part of the study as many as 412 households were surveyed and of them 270 families used wood and 97 families buffalo and cow dung as fuel. Only a few families in rural areas used fossil fuels like LPG and kerosene.
The average 24-hour exposures to RSPM were the highest amongst women in families which used biomass fuels for cooking. Even older women, above 60 years who generally do not cook food, and children, who mostly play outside the houses, are also exposed to the high levels of RSPM.
However, children are three to four times less exposed to high levels of RSPM in households where fossil fuels are used.
"Indoor air pollution punishes young children twice. First by making them ill and secondly by making their mothers ill, thus reducing the mother’s ability to take care of the children", the report pointed out.

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