Pune: Until now, only rural women were focused on in surveys on how traditional cooking affects the respiratory system. Now, a study by a student of Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), Charulata Nandre on tribal women has found that women who cook in the traditional manner by using a ‘chulah’ develop respiratory problems.
Besides, in comparison to traditional mud houses, those who live in cemented house and use chulahs are more likely to develop respiratory problems.
Indian rural households still use traditional mud stoves for cooking which emit large amount of smoke causing cancer or other lung-related diseases. Moreover, according to the study, mud houses absorb a good amount of smoke whereas cement made houses fail to do so because of which the smoke remains in the air harming more. The survey was conducted among Mahadev tribe of Ahupe near Sahyadri Hills and Bhil tribe of Sawar near Satpura hills in the state. It was conducted under the guidance of Professor of Anthropology Department, Shaunak Kulkarni.
Traditional way of cooking, materials used in building houses, space in which food is cooked and timely medical intervention are factors that affect the respiratory conditions.
The study was carried out twice in two seasons: summer and monsoon. It was revealed that summers are comparatively more harmful for both tribes since the fumes remain in the atmosphere and duration of cooking is also more. “These women are farmers, they are on field during rainy season. Hence, they cook small items and go on the field. While, in summers, they cook more and hence, are more exposed to the heat and smoke,” said Nandre.
Moreover, use of cow dung as fuel, especially during monsoon, is harmful which is why most of the Mahadev Koli women develop complications in the respiratory system during the monsoon. The study has also shown that the dampness of the walls, wet fuel wood also cause adverse effect on health.
Apart from respiratory illnesses, the retinas of their eyes are also affected due to direct exposure to heat and smoke. “Also, due to over work and pollution, even though these women live for a good amount of years, they look aged,” added Nandre.
“In the last few decades, several measures have been taken focusing on improvement of women and children in different countries. Pollution is one of the major reasons which kills women and children. While women and children in rural areas are more exposed to pollution which affect their health,” said Nandre.