Even a highly rated model may perform differently in the field.
Some initial efforts have emerged to use carbon credits as an incentive for installing improved cookstoves, but the discovery that some increase emissions highlights a need for international standards. The World Health Organization is drafting limits for indoor air pollution, while the International Standards Organization is developing standards for cookstove emissions, efficiency, safety and durability, said Radha Muthiah, executive director of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
But the real answer may lie in a wholesale change in the energy sources available to poor households.
“There’s no mystery about what works,” Smith said. The 60 percent of the global population that does not use wood or dung for cooking has proven that “every cuisine in the world [can be] cooked on electricity or gas,” he said.
The challenge, he said, is to make gas or electricity widely available, with extremely clean cookstoves filling any remaining gap.
“If it’s significantly better, no woman will go back” to cooking over an open fire, and the public health savings should be incentive for governments to put money into the effort, Smith said. “It’s not subsidy – it’s social investment.”
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.