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In his new column, “When Cooking Fuel Kills,” Jonathan Alter explains how indoor air pollution caused by cooking is one of the world’s least-known health crises:

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) — On Thanksgiving, we cook and, if we’re doing it right, we give sincere thanks for being alive. But we rarely think of how the two really interact. We don’t recognize that in many parts of the world, cooking provides not just nourishment and pleasure but sometimes harm and death. Thankfully, there’s a solution on the way.

The consequences of cooking may be the least-known major health problem in the world. According to the World Health Organization, almost 2 million people a year — mostly women and children — die from diseases (pneumonia, cancer, pulmonary and heart ailments) that are connected to smoke from dirty stoves and open fires. Toxic fumes from cooking in poorly ventilated dwellings kill more people than AIDS and tuberculosis, and twice as many as malaria.

More than 3 billion people worldwide live in homes where food is cooked with wood, dung, makeshift charcoal or agricultural waste as fuel. That means that almost half the world’s population is vulnerable to severe health problems from the smoke that such fuels produce.

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