Does biofuel smoke contribute to anaemia and stunting in early childhood?

In India, biofuel smoke has been linked to reduced birth weight, to acute respiratory infections, and mortality in early childhood.  The authors of this paper sought to ascertain whether the biofuel smoke could also be linked to anaemia and stunting as well.

The data that was used for this study was from a household survey that was conducted from 1998-9 in all areas of India.  The survey found that almost half of the children under the age of three suffered from moderate-to-severe anaemia, and a similar percentage were stunted.

What they refer to as biofuel in this study is not necessarily what we have been talking about in class, but the study still intrigued me.  The burning of biomass such as wood, crop residues, and dung as fuel for cooking and heating seems to be causing large issues in the households of India.

The researchers controlled for a total of twenty confounding factors that could also have caused the medical issues that they were looking at.  They compared households at all caste levels, and found that the smoke caused by the burning of these inefficient biofuels is to blame for 31% of moderate-to-severe anaemia and 37% of stunting in children aged 6-35 months.

This study astounded me.  I didn’t think that cooking and heating could cause such drastic problems in children that young.  It makes sense, given the vulnerability of young bodies, but it’s still really off-putting.

Mishra, Vinod, and Robert D. Retherford. “Does Biofuel Smoke Contribute to Anaemia and Stunting in Early Childhood?” International Journal of Epidemiology 36 (2006): 117-26.


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