In a recent study published in PLOS Medicine, researchers found a clear link between cooking with wood or coal, and an increased risk of major eye diseases that can lead to blindness.
The study is from the University of Oxford and Peking University. One author is Dr. Peter Ka Hung Chan.
About half the world’s population – 3.8 billion individuals – are exposed to household air pollution from cooking using ‘dirty’ solid fuels, such as coal and wood.
While previous studies have reported a possible link between cooking with solid fuels and an increased risk of cataracts in women, it is unclear whether similar associations also exist with other major eye diseases, such as conjunctivitis, keratitis and glaucoma.
In the study, the team analyzed data from almost half a million Chinese adults in the China Kadoorie Biobank.
All the study participants were asked about their cooking habits by questionnaire, then tracked for hospital admissions of major eye diseases through linkage to health insurance records.
Over the 10-year follow-up period, there were 4,877 cases of conjunctiva disorders, 13,408 cataracts, 1,583 disorders of the sclera, cornea, iris, and ciliary body (DSCIC), and 1,534 cases of glaucoma.
The team found long-term use of solid fuels for cooking was linked to 32%, 17%, and 35% higher risks of the conjunctiva, cataracts, and DSCIC, respectively, compared with those who cooked using clean fuels.
People who switched from using solid to clean fuels for cooking had smaller elevated risks (over those who had always used clean fuels) compared to those who did not switch.
People who switched had 21%, 5%, and 21% higher risk for conjunctiva, cataracts, and DSCIC, respectively.
The team says the increased risks may be caused by exposure to high levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide, which can damage the eye surface and cause inflammation.
Burning wood also increases the risk of eye injury from sparks or wood dust.
The researchers propose that the reason there was no association between solid fuel use and the risk of glaucoma was that this disorder affects internal eye structures, which are less exposed to pollutants in the air.
If you care about eye health, please read studies about coronavirus and eye disease: What older people should know and findings of 7 healthy habits that protect against blinding eye diseases in older people.
For more information about eye diseases, please see recent studies about a new way to treat blinding eye disease in older people and results showing that gene therapy could successfully treat this common eye disease.
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