Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Cooking with Wood May Fuel Low Birth Weight: Kitchen Smoke Puts Babies at Risk

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Cooking with Wood May Fuel Low Birth Weight: Kitchen Smoke Puts Babies at Risk

Article excerpt

The etiology of low birth weight (LBW; defined as weighing less than 2.5 kg at birth) is complex, with demographic, nutritional, reproductive, and socioeconomic factors each potentially playing a role. Inhaled tobacco smoke is the leading cause of LBW in industrialized countries, and inhaled smoke from the world's most widely used cooking fuel, wood, can impair fetal growth much the same way. A team of researchers therefore launched a population-based study to examine the risk of LBW specifically in relation to use of wood fuel during pregnancy [EHP 116:543-549; Siddiqui et al.]. They found that maternal exposure to pollutants from wood smoke increases the risk of LBW, which is linked with myriad health problems including nutritional deficiencies, impaired psychomotor development, and chronic disease.

Tobacco smoke and wood smoke work in two ways to thwart fetal development. One occurs when carbon monoxide combines with hemoglobin to cross the placenta. This causes hypoxia, or a decreased oxygen supply to tissue, which limits the ability of the placenta to transfer nutrients to the fetus. The other occurs when inhaled particulate matter from smoke impairs fetal growth by damaging cells through oxidative stress.

The team of U.S.- and Pakistan-based researchers studied births in the latter country, where more than half the population cooks with wood and the 19% LBW rate is among the world's highest. …

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