University of Iowa

In the news: UI hosts conference to save millions of lives globally

April 11th, 2017
According to the United Nations and Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, about 2.7 billion people around the world cook their food on a cookstove or open fire by burning some form of biomass, such as wood. The World Health Organization estimates that the

According to the United Nations and Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, about 2.7 billion people around the world cook their food on a cookstove or open fire by burning some form of biomass, such as wood. The World Health Organization estimates that the carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants released while burning biomass lead to 4 million deaths annually. Photo by H.S. Udaykumar.

By Cristobal McKinney, Iowa Now

Millions of women around the world die every year from the simple household task of cooking. The smoke from the biomass, often wood, that is burned to heat their pots, pans, and griddles for cooking food is hazardous to health and often deadly. From April 12–14, the University of Iowa will host a group of internationally recognized experts at a conference, Women’s Health and the Environment: Going up in Smoke, to address this silent global crisis.

According to the United Nations and Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, about 2.7 billion people around the world cook their food on a cookstove or open fire by burning some form of biomass, such as wood. The World Health Organization estimates that the carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants released while burning biomass lead to 4 million deaths annually.

“The number of people who are dying every year from just cooking for their families is staggering,” says conference organizer Jerry Anthony, UI professor of urban and regional planning. “Even in developing countries where this is such a problem, there is very little media discussion about this issue because these deaths are spread out over the year and therefore not sensational. It’s what Rob Nixon, a professor at Princeton, calls a ‘slow violence.’”

Anthony is a member of a multidisciplinary research team formed by H.S. Udaykumar, UI professor of mechanical engineering, that is tackling this problem and achieving success in a field often mired in failure. Along with UI colleagues Meena Khandelwal, Matthew Hill, and Marc Linderman, Anthony and Udaykumar teach a Big Ideas course that grew out of their research, a course that has become a model for other interdisciplinary classes at the UI.

Iowa Now reported on the research team’s efforts in 2015 and talked to Anthony to learn more about the conference and get an update on the team’s efforts.

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