Jennifer Peel, a Colorado State University epidemiologist, was in disbelief when she first studied data about indoor air pollution from cookstoves.
The stoves, with open fires fueled typically by wood, coal and charcoal, are used by 3 billion people globally to cook or heat their homes. Cookstoves are a leading global health concern, blamed for nearly 3 million deaths each year; exposure to the smoke causes pneumonia, the leading killer of young children in low-income settings.
Researchers also believe the smoke contributes to low birth weight in babies and restricted growth in children, and to increased blood pressure and other cardiovascular and respiratory effects in adults.
Now Peel, who specializes in the health effects of air pollution, is leading a groundbreaking study aimed at learning more about the potential benefits of an alternative cookstove and, by extension, the lives and health of millions of newborns, infants and adults.
Experience in studying outdoor air pollution
When Peel arrived at Colorado State University in 2004, she had years of experience studying outdoor air pollution, looking at health effects such as respiratory illness and heart disease in both infants and adults. Through her work with then-graduate student Maggie Clark, Peel’s research expanded to include studying pollution from indoor cookstoves in 2005.
Peel, a professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, is one of three scientists recently tapped to lead a study of the stoves’ effects on pregnant women and their families in four countries where the stoves are widely used.