Long-term use of charcoal for cooking linked to heart disease

Long-term use of coal, wood, or charcoal for cooking is associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a study presented at a major health conference.
Long-term use of coal, wood, or charcoal for cooking is associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a study presented at a major health conference.
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Long-term use of coal, wood, or charcoal for cooking is associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a study presented at a major health conference.

The European Society of Cardiology annual congress in Munich has heard how adopting clean fuels was associated with a lower risk of death and switching to electricity or gas weakened the impact of previous solid fuel use which suggested that the negative association may be reversible.

Scientists sought to explore the theory that air pollution from wood or coal cooking might increase the risk of premature death from heart disease.

The recent heatwave in Scotland has led to a huge increase in the number of people cooking outdoors and using charcoal.

The study included 341,730 adults aged between 30 and 79 years old who were recruited from ten regions throughout China between 2004 and 2008.

They interviewed each of these people on which fuels they used for cooking, in their current home and the two previous addresses they lived at. Then the experts used this data to estimate how long each participant had been exposed to charcoal, wood or coal cooking pollution. They focused on those who did the home’s cooking at least weekly, and who did not have a history of cardiovascular disease.

Three quarters of the participants were women, with 51.7 the average age.

The researchers discovered that those who had been using solid fuels for 30 years or longer had a 12 per cent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Over the course of the study, 8,304 people died of cardiovascular disease-related illnesses. After the scientists accounted for risk factors such as smoking, they found that each decade of cooking with solid fuels can add three per cent to the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr Derrick Bennett, the study’s author, from the University of Oxford, said: “Our study suggests that people who use solid fuels for cooking should switch to electricity or gas as soon as possible.”

Funding for the study came from the UK Medical Research Council, UK Wellcome Trust, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the National Key Research and Development programme of China.

Dr Zhengming Chen, the study’s lead investigator, also from the University of Oxford said: “We found that long-term use of solid fuels for cooking was associated with an excess risk of cardiovascular death, after accounting for established risk factors.

“Switching to electricity or gas weakened the impact of previous solid fuel use, suggesting that the negative association may be reversible.”