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Awareness of health effects of cooking smoke among women in the Gondar Region of Ethiopia: a pilot survey

M Edelstein1, E Pitchforth2, G Asres3, M Silverman4 and N Kulkarni4*

Author Affiliations

1 Hemel Hemspead General Hospital, Hillfield Road, Hemel Hemspead, UK

2 Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, UK

3 Gondar College of Medical Sciences, Gondar, Ethiopia

4 Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, Division of Child Health, University of Leicester, UK

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BMC International Health and Human Rights 2008, 8:10  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-8-10

Published: 18 July 2008



The burning of biomass fuels results in exposure to high levels of indoor air pollution, with consequent health effects. Possible interventions to reduce the exposure include changing cooking practices and introduction of smoke-free stoves supported by health education. Social, cultural and financial constraints are major challenges to implementation and success of interventions. The objective of this study is to determine awareness of women in Gondar, Ethiopia to the harmful health effects of cooking smoke and to assess their willingness to change cooking practices.


We used a single, administered questionnaire which included questions on household circumstances, general health, awareness of health impact of cooking smoke and willingness to change. We interviewed 15 women from each of rural, urban-traditional and middle class backgrounds.


Eighty percent of rural women cooked indoors using biomass fuel with no ventilation. Rural women reported two to three times more respiratory disease in their children and in themselves compared to the other two groups. Although aware of the negative effect of smoke on their own health, only 20% of participants realised it caused problems in children, and 13% thought it was a cause for concern. Once aware of adverse effects, women were willing to change cooking practices but were unable to afford cleaner fuels or improved stoves.


Increasing the awareness of the health-effects of indoor biomass cooking smoke may be the first step in implementing a programme to reduce exposure.