Get Rid of Fatal Smoke

THE statistics are disturbing: Three people are killed in their homes every minute of every day. The perpetrator​—smoke from burning biomass.

What is biomass? It may be dried animal dung, dead wood, twigs, grasses, or crop residues that can be scavenged. One third of the global population, over two billion people, use biomass as a fuel for cooking and heating, reports The Kathmandu Post of Nepal. It is often the only fuel available to the very poor.

Sadly, burning biomass gives off deadly gases. So what can be done? “The solution to indoor air pollution is relatively simple: either stop smoke getting into the home or remove it from the home,” states the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), an organization helping people in many countries to improve their lives.

The first suggestion is to cook outside. What, though, if this is not possible or desirable? Improve home ventilation, suggests ITDG. There are two ways to do this​—by cutting holes at roof height (wire mesh will keep small animals out) and by putting in windows (shutters will give privacy). This helps air to circulate and take the smoke out. However, holes in walls are impractical when fuel is being burned for heat, so another simple method can help.

Smoke hoods are one of the most acceptable and effective methods for removing smoke, says ITDG. Hoods can be made cheaply from sheet metal or even from bricks and mud. These wide covers are placed over fires and have a chimney to take smoke out of the house through the roof. Experts say that when ventilation is improved at roof height and smoke hoods are used, dangerous pollutants in the home are reduced by almost 80 percent. People who use smoke hoods say that they have become healthier, are cleaner, can do more work, and enjoy being in their homes more​—evidence that something very simple can make life better.

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An indoor kitchen in Kenya with smoke hood, large eaves space, and windows

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Dr. Nigel Bruce/