Dangers of using biofuel for cooking

Published: Thursday 15 March 2007

using bio-fuel for cooking could lead to cardiovascular diseases and cancer, says a research team from Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Kolkata. The team found that biomass smoke causes the activation of neutrophils and monocytes (white blood cells) and platelets. Platelets are blood cells that help in blood coagulation. These clump together to form blood clots inside the blood vessels, thereby increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

"Risk of cardiovascular diseases run high in bio-fuel users. It may cause cardio-pulmonary failure leading to death," says Manas Ranjan Ray, the lead researcher. Ray feels the study is significant because it will help in assessing the risk of women exposed to bio-mass smoke, especially in rural India.

For the study, the team selected 320 women spread across West Bengal, including women who cooked using biomass fuel and liquefied petroleum gas (lpg).The team found that one cubic metre of ambient air of biomass fuel-using kitchen, contained 0.000625 g particulate matter (pm) with diameter less than .00001 m, compared to 0.000169 g pm of same diameter in lpg kitchens. This is higher than the prescribed us environmental protection agency levels--0.00015 g pm per cubic metre air.

The subjects' blood samples showed higher expression of certain cell surface protein molecules (cd11b, cd18, and cd62p) on neutrophils, monocytes and platelets. "Such enhanced expression of surface molecules not only signals the activated stage of neutrophils, monocytes and platelets but also triggers them to bind with each other," says Ray. Such coalesced blood cells then stick to inner walls of arteries with bad cholesterol narrowing the arterial passage causing high blood pressure, or, form clumps disturbing blood flow inside the blood vessels.

Besides, ultra fine particles and carcinogens (benzene and benzopyrene) in biomass smoke also increase the risk of lung and blood cancers. "Biomass smoke also increases the risk of uterine cervix cancer by activating the human papilloma virus (hpv) type 16 and type 18," Ray says. "Cleaner fuel is a way out," he adds.

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