Saturday, December 10, 2011


Smoke-the killer in the kitchen



SALMAN NIZAMINargis Begum’s long hairs were burned up half up to her neck after a kerosene lamp exploded because it was placed too close to the family’s wood burning (mud) stove. As temperatures drop well below freezing during the valley’s harsh winter, non-availability of food is not the only problem, just trying to light a home and stay warm can be deadly. The Chirvari village of tehsil Banihal, Distt Ramban is 30 kms aways from the town; it takes 6 days to reach the village by foot. “We were using kerosene for a lamp and cooking food on the mud stove, and the bottle was too close and got too hot, “Nazia said of the explosion, which also hurt 10 year old daughter of Nazia, they were being treated at Emergency Hospital Banihal located on NHW Jammu- Srinagar. But aside from the threat of burns the main problem posed by heating and cooking is the smoke which kills maximum people belonging from the far-flung areas of Jammu And Kashmir State. Most of those killed are children’s under five; the main place they get affected is where the food is made, in people’s kitchens. That’s according to World Health Organization which says that the smoke and gases from cooking fires in the world’s poorest countries contribute to nearly two million deaths a year that’s more than malaria. More than 70 percent of Jammu and Kashmir people burn solid fuels, such as wood and coal in their homes, making it one of the top states worst affected by indoor pollution. Burning wood. crop waste, charcoal, charcoal or dung does the damage, filling homes with smoke and blackening walls. Its women and children who suffer most , because they are the ones tending the fires. But its not that easy a problem to fix. Scientists say their role is to do research to show how much indoor air pollution from stoves they have to cut to make a difference. The experts say that most people in poor villages who cook with open fires don’t realize what’s happening to their health. Success has been limited by a number of factors, they say, including lack of awareness of the problem, limited research into the health risk, lack of affordable improved stoves or fuels that reduce exposures to safer levels, non-availability of electricity and the logistical challenges of solving a problem that affects almost billions of poorest people on the planet.” Several civilians were killed during the Kashmir conflict, many disappeared. Kashmiri families typically use a wood burning (mud) stove , a small big bowl shaped stove made of mud, or a stove made of thin metal, or a sagri / bukhari a pit of burning coal, wood kept under the room covered by metal , to keep the rooms warm. The smoke can lead to childhood pneumonia, lung cacer, bronchitis and cardiovascular disease, which also contributing to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions. Indoor pollution mainly affects women and children because they spend the most time at home. Indoor population mainly affects women and children because they spend the most time at home, said Jammu and Kashmir’s acting Minister for Health Sham Lal Sharma. “ Indoor pollution is one of the areas that threatens the survival of inhabitants, he said. We’re working to advocate for measures that would reduce indoor pollution including things like provision of electricity, that increases the safety as well as reduces the pollution in the house.” Kashmir’s infrastructure has been shattered by the two decades of conflict and even many villages people are still without electricity. However is one of the poorest state of the country, where children male up half the population. A quarter of children die before age five and average life expectancy is 45 years. Dr. Saleem ul Rehman Director Health Kashmir said smoke from heating and cooking in homes causes burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, respiratory, illnesses and diseases and deaths. Inhalation of coal , wood and straw has been related to lung cancer and cancers of the head and neck he added. Chronic exposure to wood smoke also significantly increases the risk of cervical cancer in Human papilloma virus infected women. The Human papilloma virus causes cervical cancer. But, in a state which has remained in conflict from last more then two decades he said there was no date on how many cancer cases could have been caused by indoor pollution. Traditional cook stoves and open fires are the primary means of cooking and heating for nearly three billion people around the globe according to the WHO. Exposure to the smoke kills nearly two million people a year globally and sickens millions more, he added. According to sources in the of J&K Heath department more then 3000 people die due to indoor smoke in Jammu and Kashmir. Dr. Shabir Ahmed posted in Emergency hospital Banihal said winter in Jammu and Kashmir brought cases of burns and carbon monoxide poisoning. Last year the hospital treated 100 cases of burns caused by heating or cooking. "We will be expecting more cases when the temperature goes lower," she said. "Bukharis are normally in the middle of the room and the children run around and put their hands everywhere. We see a lot of carbon monoxide poisoning as well." Nusrat Ara, an emergency room doctor at the same hospital, said some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning such as headaches and dizziness were well known to Kashmiris. "A lot of people treat themselves by sitting outside to breath the fresh air," he said. "They get to know the symptoms."Feedback: Salmannizami@gmail.com

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