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NIEHS participates in cookstove initiative

By Eddy Ball
October 2010

John Balbus, M.D.
Senior Advisor John Balbus, M.D., above, leads NIEHS participation in the Alliance and works to raise the profile of the Institute on the Bethesda and Washington fronts, as well as nationwide, where NIEHS can have the most impact on public health and policy. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS is one of several NIH Institutes and Centers participating in the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which was launched at a press event in New York City Sept. 21 (see NIEHS Web page ( Keynote speaker at the meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)( Exit NIEHS, where the Alliance was announced, was Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Clinton was introduced at the Empowering Girls and Women plenary by President Bill Clinton.

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"Today we can finally envision a future in which open fires and dirty stoves are replaced by clean, efficient and affordable stoves and fuels all over the world - stoves that still cost as little as $25. By upgrading these dirty stoves, millions of lives could be saved and improved," Secretary Clinton told attendees. "Clean stoves could be as transformative as bed nets or vaccines."

The Alliance ( Exit NIEHS is a new public-private partnership that aims to improve global public health, combat climate change, and improve indoor air quality, especially for women and children, by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The Alliance is a United Nations Foundation-led initiative to spur the adoption of clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 100 million households in the developing world by 2020 - the basis for the Alliance slogan of "100 by 20."

According to the Alliance, one of the greatest threats facing developing countries and their populations, is the harmful effects of exposure to smoke from indoor fires and inefficient cook stoves used to prepare daily meals. Roughly half of the world's population - three billion people - rely on these cooking methods causing severe health, economic, and environmental consequences from what Clinton described as a "toxic mix" that kills as many as two million people each year.

A U.S. Department of State press release ( Exit NIEHS described the Alliance as an unprecedented and coordinated effort by the U.S. Department of State, foreign governments, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH, the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development to mobilize key financial resources, top experts, and research and development tools. The initial U.S. financial commitment to the Alliance is $50.82 million over the next five years.

Along with studies on the health effects of indoor air pollution by several NIH Institutes and Centers, NIEHS has invested around $9 million in leading investigator-initiated health effects research and pioneering intervention studies, such as those conducted by grantee and 2009 Heinz Award winner Kirk Smith, Ph.D. ( Exit NIEHS NIEHS-funded research on cookstoves and indoor air pollution has helped people in the U.S., Guatemala, Ecuador, Nepal, Pakistan, and Ghana.

NIEHS plans to maintain constant funding at approximately $1.8 million per year in this area. As part of the new Alliance, NIH also plans to host a state-of-the-science conference on cookstoves and indoor air pollution.

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