Cookstoves and Air Pollution in Madagascar: Finding Winning Solutions for Human Health and Biodiversity (2016-2017)

Respiratory health is a major global health challenge. In urban areas of the developing world, air pollution from cars, burning of refuse and under-regulated industry pose significant health risks. In rural areas, open-fire cooking increases exposure to carbon monoxide and particulate matter, which can lead to serious long-term consequences. The World Health Organization estimates that more than two million people die annually from the effects of indoor air pollution originating from household cooking fires—more deaths than are attributed to malaria.

In addition to their negative effects on human health, traditional cooking practices endanger biodiversity and contribute to global warming. Loss of trees represents lost habitats for various animal species, many of which are found only in Madagascar. The loss of ground cover also impacts the water cycle and other processes, leading to drying of the microclimate. As a result, traditional cooking practices can impact agricultural output while contributing to greenhouse gases and pollutants involved in climate change.

Working with the Duke Lemur Center’s SAVA Conservation Initiative, this Bass Connections project team investigated the health consequences of traditional cooking practices in Mandena, Madagascar.

The team traveled to Mandena in Summer 2016 to collect data on respiratory health, blood pressure, air quality and cooking practices, document sources of firewood and quantify the impact of wood extraction on nearby forests. In the fall the team analyzed data, identified focal areas of research and produced background documents with hypotheses, predictions and methods. In the spring the team focused on learning Malagasy and developing a cultural portfolio (supported by the Health Humanities Lab). The team shared findings to date at the Duke Lemur Center’s 50th Anniversary Symposium.

The team found that 93% of participants had lung capacity below healthy values. Based on the data, the team estimates that one in five community members has impaired lung function. The sleeping areas of homes had very high levels of particulate matter throughout the day, and the cooking areas of homes had extremely high levels of carbon monoxide around meal times. There were strong indications that traditional cooking practices are a culprit. In Summer 2017 the team will continue the data collection in Mandena. Further findings are expected to be shared in one or more published papers along with reports to local health authorities.

Timing

Summer 2016 – Summer 2017

Team Outcomes

The Effects of Cooking Practices on Human and Environmental Health in Rural Madagascar (Tommy Klug, Laura Guidera, Anna-Karin Hess, Lydia Greene, Melissa Manus, Brittany Carson; winner of Duke Global Health Institute Poster Award, Second Place)

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Health in Rural Madagascar (Laura Guidera, Anna-Karin Hess, Tommy Klug, Lydia Greene, Erin Litzow)

Duke Global Health Institute Student Fieldwork Photo Contest, Third Place Award for “Carrying Rice” (Lydia Greene)

Cookstoves, Respiratory Health and Conservation of Lemur Biodiversity in SAVA, Madagascar (presentation by Charlie Nunn, Duke Lemur Center 50th Anniversary Scientific Symposium, September 23, 2016)

Videos

Students Explore the Environmental Costs of Open-Fire Cooking in Madagascar

Students Explore Health Hazards of Open-Fire Cooking in Madagascar

Cookstoves, Respiratory Health and Conservation

Reflections

Anna-Karin Hess ’19

Erin Litzow, MEM student

Tommy Klug ’18

Laura Guidera ’18

Lydia Greene, PhD student in Ecology

This Team in the News

When Traditions Take a Toll

Multimedia Feature: Students Explore Human and Environmental Health in Madagascar

Alumna Spotlight: Melissa Manus ’16 Explores Links between Evolution and Medicine

New Projects Invigorate Bass Connections Program

Graduate Fellowship Winners Describe Their Research

Exploring Human and Environmental Health in the SAVA Region

Blue Devil of the Week: Supporting Madagascar and Its People

Bass Connections Team Members Share Their Global Health Research and Win Awards

And the Best Global Health Photos and Posters Are…

It Takes a Village: A Fieldwork Bystander’s Perspective

Missing Out Isn’t an Option

We’re not just collecting data. We’re really formulating new questions and identifying ways to tackle them. We’re immersed in this village. We’re getting to know the people. Ultimately, our goal is really to improve the health of this village. —Charles Nunn

We’re using different perspectives and students from different levels to address this global health issue. This is a very important component of global health—using teamwork to solve a problem. —Melissa Manus

See earlier related team, Shining Evolutionary Light on Global Health Challenges (2014-2015).

Themes

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Gerald Bloomfield, School of Medicine - Medicine - Cardiology*
Melissa Manus, Trinity - Evolutionary Anthropology*
Charles Nunn, Trinity - Evolutionary Anthropology*
Subhrendu Pattanayak, Sanford School of Public Policy*
Charles Welch, Duke Lemur Center*

Graduate Team Members

Lydia Greene, PhD in Ecology
Erin Litzow, Nicholas School - Master of Environmental Management

Undergraduate Team Members

Laura Guidera, Biology (BS)
Anna-Karin Hess, Program II (BS)
Thomas Klug, Public Policy Studies (AB), Environmental Sciences (BS2)
James Yu, Evolutionary Anthropology (AB)

Community Team Members

Brittany Carson, Undergraduate, Environmental Science, North Carolina Central University
Efe Fakir, Medical student, Bahcesehir University
Henri Lahady, State Nurse, Madagascar
Prisca Raharimalala, Duke Lemur Center SAVA Conservation Initiative affiliate
Njaratiana Raharinoro, Graduate, Master of Biology of Animal Conservation, University of Antananarivo
Desire Razafimatratra, Duke Lemur Center SAVA Conservation Initiative affiliate

* denotes team leader

Status

Active