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Fuel Smoke Tied to Cardiovascular Complications

Update Date: Aug 06, 2013 12:15 PM EDT
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Smoke in general, whether it comes from pollution or from a lit cigarette, is not good for one's health. Studies have repeatedly tied smoke to several respiratory complications, such as lung cancer. In a new study, researchers looked at a different source of smoke, fuel smoke. Fuel smoke is produced when people burn biomass, such as wood, animal feces and waste that comes from agricultural crops as an energy source. They discovered that fuel smoke not only contributes to lung disease, but also increases one's risk of developing cardiovascular diseases as well.

The researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis focused on fuel smoke in rural households. People from rural areas in developing nations are exposed to this type of smoke more frequently than other people. Residents burn biomass, which produces fuel smoke in order too cook food and create heating. Since fuel smoke is the only option available for most families in these areas, this study reiterates the importance of helping these developing nations improve.

"In these homes, you can hardly see your hand in front of your face when families are cooking or burning fuel for heat," cardiologist Victor Davila-Roman, MD from the University said according to Medical Xpress. "Everyone in the household is affected, but women in particular take the brunt of it because they are home much of the day and do the cooking."

For this study, the research team looked at 266 men and women from Puno, Peru and its surrounding rural regions. Within Puno, there is a population of around 100,000 people and they mostly have a cleaner fuel source to use, which include liquid propane gas, kerosene and electricity. The people residing in the nearby rural communities, however, utilize open-fire stoves.

The researchers compared the level of indoor particulate matter in both types of homes and discovered that homes located in rural communities had levels that were 20 times higher than homes in the city. The team also found that people from these rural communities had thicker carotid arteries, which are the vessels that help transfer blood to the brain. On top of that, this group of people also had more plaque buildup in these arteries and higher blood pressure when compared to city residents. The researchers took into account age, gender, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, and other factors tied to cardiovascular health.

"Our study brings attention to the fact that reducing biomass fuel smoke through improved cook stove programs could potentially decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke in resource-limited settings," pulmonologist William Checkley, MD, Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University said.

"The altercations can't be too expensive," Davila-Roman added. "And even with a reasonable cost, we have to have solid evidence to convince the people making the decisions that modifying these stoves is worthwhile."

The study was published in the journal, Heart

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