A Pilot Study for Investigating Human Health Impacts of Biomass-Fired Domestic Cookstoves | AIChE

A Pilot Study for Investigating Human Health Impacts of Biomass-Fired Domestic Cookstoves

The majority of developing countries today remain reliant on biomass combustion to supply energy to their household for basic needs such as heating and cooking. The high dependency of biomass-based fuels is of concern due to the potential hazardous by-products that can be produced in the event of incomplete combustion. This will occur due to the inefficiency of domestic application systems along with insufficient ventilation. Previous studies have presented evidence of an increased health risk associated with inhalation of biomass smoke, which was found to be particularly true for women who experience daily exposure through their traditional role in the household of cooking.

Despite the efforts across the world to promote better combustion systems and cleaner fuels, immediate change has proven to be unrealistic. Therefore, an alternative intervention should be explored. This project aims to develop a pathophysiological understanding of the previously studied health consequences. We designed and built a bench-top scale combustion device purposed to simulate domestic cook stoves and a protocol was established for smoke sample collection. These collected smoke samples were then tested with a glutathione (GSH) depletion assay and endothelial permeability assay. Although a consistent result could not be expected due to the variable nature of the combustion process, a sign of glutathione depletion was observed, which is known to be associated with cell apoptosis. An endothelial permeability assay also demonstrated barrier destruction at higher dosages, while enhanced function was unexpectedly observed at a lower dosage. The smoke samples were also broken down and characterized in an effort to determine the chemical components responsible for the observed assay results via GC-MS and ICP-AES for organic and inorganic components. respectively. After separating organic components into three parts based on polarity using solid phase extraction, GC-MS analysis indicated that the samples with GSH depleting effect had higher content in the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) fraction than in that of the samples that did not demonstrate GSH depletion. Studies with ICP-AES suggested copper as another potential active component for the GSH depletion observed.