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Smoke from Biomass Fuels tied to Emphysema, COPD

A new study out of Guangzhou, China suggest that people who burn wood or other “biofuels” for heat or cooking may have a heightened risk of emphysema and related lung conditions.

Until now, the role of smoke from biomass fuels – which refer to biological materials including wood, crops and animal dung that are burned for energy – has been unclear. However, the Chinese study’s findings strengthen the evidence that exposure to biomass smoke is a risk factor for COPD.

In an analysis of 15 international studies, researchers found that people exposed to this smoke in their homes generally had a greater risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than those who used other sources for cooking and heating.

The study, published in Chest, combined the results of studies out of Asia, South America, Mexico and Spain involving a total of 3,719 adults with COPD and 39,000 healthy individuals who were surveyed regarding past exposure to biomass smoke at home. Though studies cannot prove cause-and-effect, a relationship between biomass smoke exposure and risk of COPD was found.

Researchers found that participants who reported exposure to biomass smoke at home were more than twice as likely to have COPD as those with no exposure. These risks were consistent in men and women across geographical regions, and seemed to affect COPD risk independent of cigarette smoking. However, smokers exposed to biomass smoke had more than four-fold the risk of COPD than non-smokers who did not burn biomass fuels at home.

With biomass fuels thought to be used for cooking and heating in half of homes worldwide, particularly in rural areas of developing countries, the research team concludes that “the public health consequences of biomass smoke with regard to COPD (are) important,” and reducing exposure might help prevent some cases of lung diseases. Click here to access the full story on Medline Plus

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