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Carbon monoxide concentrations in outdoor wood-fired kitchens in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso-implications for women's and children's health

Journal article
Authors Sofia Thorsson
Björn Holmer
Andreas Andjelic
J. Linden
Sandra Cimerman
Lars Barregård
Published in Environmental Monitoring & Assessment
Volume 186
Issue 7
Pages 4479-4492
ISSN 0167-6369
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Section of Occupational and environmental medicine
Pages 4479-4492
Language en
Keywords Carbon monoxide; Outdoor open wood fires; Health implications; Sub-Saharan city
Subject categories Environmental Sciences


A majority of households in developing countries rely on biomass fuel for cooking, typically burned in open fires or simple stoves. The incomplete combustion of these fuels causes adverse health effects such as respiratory diseases, especially among women and children. However, quantitative data on pollution levels and on associated diseases are limited. We examined cooking habits and self-reported health in 31 households with outdoor open wood fires in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, using structured interviews. In eight households, carbon monoxide (CO) was measured using passive sampling. In addition, meteorology and ambient CO concentrations were assessed. The average CO concentration during cooking was 4.3 ppm, with a maximum of 65.3 ppm and minimum of 0.3 ppm (1-min values). A clear daily pattern was observed, with relatively low concentrations during the day and high during the evening, occasionally exceeding the World Health Organization 1- and 8-h guidelines when the air stabilised. On average, CO concentrations were 43 % higher in kitchens located in closed yards than in those located in open yards, showing that fireplace location affected the levels. Eye irritation and coughing among women and children were reported by 30 % of the households. Based on previously reported relations between CO concentrations and fine particles (< 2.5 mu m), the exposure to biomass smoke appears to be high enough to pose a considerable health risk among women and children in households with outdoor open wood fires. The results suggest that burning should be limited between sunset and dawn and in areas with limited ventilation to reduce pollutions levels.

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