Home >politics >policy >Women using polluting cooking fuel more prone to cataract, says study

New Delhi: Women cooking with bio-mass fuel—the main source of indoor pollution in India—have higher chances of developing cataracts in their eyes, says a new study.

Women in India who use fuels such as wood, crop residues and dried dung to cook are nearly 50% more likely to suffer from cataract than those who use cooking gas.

The study was jointly conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi and Aravind Eye Hospital, Tamil Nadu.

“Environmental health is a new area of research in India and there is little work to show links between pollution and eye diseases," said Praveen Vashist, additional professor in the ophthalmology department of AIIMS and co-author of the study.

Astrid Fletcher, a professor from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who coordinated the study, said, “Our study provides the strongest evidence yet of an association with adult lifetime exposure to biomass fuels and cataracts. This was only found in women, probably because cooking was almost only done by women using stoves without chimneys, exposing them directly to smoke from burning biomass fuels. Unexpectedly we also found that women who cooked with kerosene were more likely to have cataracts."

The study was conducted in Delhi and Madurai among 6,000 people aged 60 and above.

Participants were interviewed about use of cooking fuel and a range of socioeconomic and lifestyle factors. They were then put through an extensive eye examination. Over 40% were found to have sight impairing cataracts.

Cataract is the biggest cause of blindness in India. Estimates suggest that nearly 65% of all visually-impairment is due to cataract. The world average is nearly 50%.

“India has high levels of cataract as well as biomass fuel consumption. Thus, we decided to look into their association," said Vashist.

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