Pinewood smoke: Cause of lung problems

Published: Thursday 15 March 2007

A chronic lung disease--gujjar lung--is afflicting the Gujjars, an ethnic community found mostly in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. The cause for the ailment is pinewood smoke. They use pinewood for cooking and heating and living in ill-ventilated houses makes it worse. A team of doctors and scientists in Srinagar has reviewed existing medical evidences. The study has been published in JK Science (Vol 8 No 3).

On an average, these people are exposed to pinewood smoke for 12-16 hours each day. They also use a high oleoresin containing part of the wood called 'lash' for lighting, thus adding to indoor air pollution. "Pinewood is rich in oleoresins which on burning emits sulphur dioxide, benzopyrene, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic hydrocarbons and albeitic acid. These gases alone or along with carbon could be the responsible factors for lung injury and fibrosis," the study notes.Symptoms include progressive dyspnea (shortness of breath) and cough that produces blackish sputum.

It is estimated that up to 90 per cent of rural households in developing countries, rely on biomass fuel.

--Vivek chattopadhyay

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