Thorax 66:232-239 doi:10.1136/thx.2010.147884
  • Environmental exposure
  • Original article

Respiratory disease associated with solid biomass fuel exposure in rural women and children: systematic review and meta-analysis

  1. Chris Carlsten
  1. Department of Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Chris Carlsten, Department of Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver General Hospital, 7th Floor, 2775 Laurel St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9, Canada; chris.carlsten{at}
  • Received 27 July 2010
  • Accepted 9 December 2010
  • Published Online First 19 January 2011


Background Numerous studies with varying associations between domestic use of solid biomass fuels (wood, dung, crop residue, charcoal) and respiratory diseases have been reported.

Objective To present the current data systematically associating use of biomass fuels with respiratory outcomes in rural women and children.

Methods Systematic searches were conducted in 13 electronic databases. Data were abstracted from original articles that satisfied selection criteria for meta-analyses. Publication bias and heterogeneity of samples were tested. Studies with common diagnoses were analysed using random-effect models.

Results A total of 2717 studies were identified. Fifty-one studies were selected for data extraction and 25 studies were suitable for meta-analysis. The overall pooled ORs indicate significant associations with acute respiratory infection in children (OR 3.53, 95% CI 1.94 to 6.43), chronic bronchitis in women (OR 2.52, 95% CI 1.88 to 3.38) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in women (OR 2.40, 95% CI 1.47 to 3.93). In contrast, no significant association with asthma in children or women was noted.

Conclusion Biomass fuel exposure is associated with diverse respiratory diseases in rural populations. Concerted efforts in improving stove design and lowering exposure to smoke emission may reduce respiratory disease associated with biomass fuel exposure.


  • Funding Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.