Health impacts in South-central Chile due to misuse of wood-burning stoves

Agronomía - Ingeniería Civil Ambiental - Ingeniería Civil Química - Ingeniería en Recursos Naturales Renovables
Facultad de Ingeniería - Facultad de Recursos Naturales
Fecha de publicación:
Datos de publicación:
Electronic Journal of Energy & Environment, Vol. 1, Nº 3, 65-71, 2013
Estufas a leña - Contaminación Atmosférica - Uso de leña - Polución - Calidad del aire - Salud pública
After the episode that occurred in London in December of 1952 in which more than four thousand people died as a result of acute exposure to atmospheric contaminants (particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, principally), there are no doubts that air quality has an important effect on the health of the population. Exposure to air and the intake of air and its components are permanent and obligatory. “We can choose the water we drink and the food that we eat, but we cannot choose the air that we breathe.” Given that a person inhales between 13 and 15 m3 (between 13,000 or 15,000 liters), it is understood that humans are highly vulnerable to atmospheric pollution. As is shown in Fig. 1, in many cities in the central and southern parts of Chile, (Rancagua, Talca, Chillán, Gran Concepción, Los Angeles, Temuco, Osorno, Valdivia and Coyhaique) the problem of atmospheric pollution from particulate matter (PM) exists [Ministerio del Medio Ambiente, 2011]. This agent is principally emitted by wood stoves and ovens that use firewood, due to the bad practices or misuse of these devices, such as the burning of wet wood (humidity over 25%) in articles of precarious technology, that are additionally operated in an undesirable manner (closure of air intakes). Also, the consumption of firewood is excessive, due to the poor quality or lack of thermal insulation in homes. In these same cities, during the winter period, it is frequent that health centers are collapsed by the grand number of visits associated with respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses in children and the elderly, primarily. However, it is important to ask, “Are all respiratory illnesses caused by atmospheric pollution?” As well as, “What percentage is attributable to poor air quality?” If the concentrations of PM decrease as a consequence of a Decontamination Plan, will there be less occurrence of respiratory diseases? This study has the principle objective of answering these questions, as well as the explanation of PMs and their health risks for humans.

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