We made static and personal PM2.5 measurements to characterise exposure of women cooking with wood and charcoal in indoor and outdoor locations in rural Malawi, and examined the association between these exposures and blood pressure (BP) and peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR). Mean PM2.5 concentrations of 1,338 and 31 µg/m3 were observed 1 m from cookstove locations during cooking with wood and charcoal respectively. Similarly, mean personal PM2.5 exposures of 706 and 101 µg/m3 were observed during cooking with wood and charcoal respectively. Personal exposures to PM2.5 in indoor locations were 3.3 and 1.5 times greater than exposures observed in equivalent outdoor locations for wood and charcoal respectively. There was no clear association found between short-term PM2.5 exposure and BP. Prior to measured exposure, six out of eight participants had PEFR observations below 80% of their expected (age and height) standardised PEFR. Decreases in PEFR were associated with PM2.5 exposure during cooking with wood. Five out of eight participants reported breathing difficulties, coughing and eye irritation when cooking with wood; but reported that symptoms were less severe when cooking with charcoal. In conclusion, we observed exposure to PM2.5 exposure was substantially reduced by cooking outdoor with charcoal. As both wood and charcoal fuels are associated with negative environmental and health impacts, the adoption of high efficiency cookstoves and less polluting sources of energy will be highly beneficial. Cooking outside whenever possible, and minimising the time spent in close proximity to stoves, may be simple interventions that could reduce the risks of exacerbation and progression of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in Malawi.
- PM 2.5