Thompson Funded to Study Household Air Pollution Among Low-Income Communities in Guatemala

By Phoebe Byers

A woman cooks tortillas on a wood-fired three-stone stove in Guatemala.

Lisa Thompson, RN, PhD, associate professor in the UCSF School of Nursing, along with Anaite Diaz from Universidad del Valle and Christina Espinoza, co-founder of GenteGas SA, has won a Phase I grant award through Grand Challenges Canada, a global health organization funded by the Canadian government.

Lisa Thompson, RN, PhD

This project’s novel approach will train women entrepreneurs to sell liquid petroleum gas (LPG) stoves and provide education about reducing exposures to household air pollution (HAP). The main goal of the pilot study is to determine whether a market-based model for liquid petroleum gas stove adoption and household education will lead to adoption, uptake and sustained use of liquid petroleum gas stoves.

“One of the greatest ways to empower women in developing countries is to liberate them, and their young female children, from the hours spent gathering wood and leaning over smoky fires to cook food,” Thompson said.

Household air pollution from burning wood, charcoal, manure, agricultural waste and other solid biomass cooking fuels affects 2.7 billion people worldwide, or 38 percent of humanity.  It also causes 4 million premature deaths a year. That’s more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) combined, according to Grand Challenges Canada.

Exposure to household air pollution is associated with pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, TB, cardiovascular disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes and cataracts. This project is the first social enterprise to offer market-based affordable gas stoves to low-income families exposed to toxic levels of wood smoke in Guatemala.

An additional goal is to provide educational messages targeting reduction in exposures to household air pollution among households that are not able to replace solid fuel (e.g. wood) stoves with liquid petroleum gas stoves.  

“These women will also provide ongoing education to household members about gas stove safety and will promote awareness about why continued exposure to other sources of wood smoke is bad for family health,” Thompson said. “We know that household air pollution is basically a women’s and children’s problem, but solutions to this problem must involve all family members, including men in the household who make decisions about stove purchases.”

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