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Is occupational biomass smoke exposure an overlooked driver of respiratory health?
  1. Cathryn Tonne,
  2. Otavio T Ranzani
  1. ISGlobal, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública, Barcelona, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Dr Cathryn Tonne, ISGlobal, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública, Barcelona 08003, Spain; cathryn.tonne{at}

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Universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030 is a target under the Sustainable Development Goals. Lack of access to modern energy is responsible for a high burden of respiratory and cardiovascular ill health, a burden falling largely on populations in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs).1 However, most of what we know about this burden is from evidence related to household air pollution from inefficient burning of solid fuels (including biomass). Relatively little is known about the contribution of occupational exposure to products of incomplete biomass combustion. This is reflected in the data used to track progress on sustainable energy targets, which are based on household surveys.2 3 These are highly valuable data on household energy use, but shed little light on the scale of exposures from occupational settings and their potential health impact. Awopeju et al provide preliminary data that begin to fill this gap.4

Awopeju et al aimed to assess the prevalence of respiratory symptoms in women engaged in commercial cooking using biomass fuel (referred to as street cooks) relative to similar women not engaged in commercial cooking in urban south-western Nigeria. By applying four standard questions from the Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease  initiative,5 the authors showed that women exposed to occupational biomass smoke had higher …

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  • Contributors CT and OTR contributed equally.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Editor’s note This commentary refers to an article published in the October 2017 issue of Occup Environ Med: Awopeju OF, Nemery B, Afolabi OT, et al. Biomass smokeexposure as an occupational risk: cross-sectional study of respiratory health of women working as street cooks in Nigeria. Occup Environ Med 2017;74:737–44.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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