A study evaluating cooking patterns during a randomized control trial found that women were willing to switch from using heavily-polluting kerosene stoves to cookstoves that burned ethanol, a clean-burning liquid fuel. Using Stove Use Monitors (SUMs) installed on all household cookstoves to monitor temperature, the study showed a drastic decline of traditional kerosene stove usage with intervention homes, almost completely displacing kerosene use with ethanol.                          

Remarkably, 84% of women assigned to use ethanol gave away their kerosene stove before the conclusion of the study, demonstrating that clean-burning fuels fully met their daily cooking needs. This study, led by Dr. Christopher Olopade, Professor of Medicine and Clinical Director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Chicago, is the first to objectively evaluate a liquid-to-liquid fuel substitution, and it suggests that transitioning to clean fuels such as ethanol, biogas, or LPG is not a major hurdle for the millions of kerosene users living in urban settings around the world.

“It was great to see that the women used the ethanol stove and stopped using, kerosene, which is an important step to avoid health damaging exposures from kerosene smoke,” said Amanda Northcross, Assistant Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at The George Washington University, who conducted the stove usage analysis. “Most cookstove intervention studies have focused on biomass stoves, but in urban areas in Nigeria, kerosene is a very popular fuel. Kerosene was previously considered a clean fuel, but as we learn more, we are finding the health and climate impacts from kerosene and kerosene smoke are significant. This study shows that a bioethanol cookstove may be a good alternative, especially for women in urban areas already using a liquid fuel.”

Globally, nearly 3 billion people still rely on open fires and traditional stoves to cook their food, with millions more using kerosene as their primary cooking fuel, causing around 4 million deaths a year and widespread health impacts. In Nigeria, over 25% percent of the population relies on kerosene for cooking, resulting in household air pollution levels far exceeding WHO Indoor Air Quality Guidelines.