Solar Stoves Can Save Millions and Alter The World’s ‘Largest Environmental Health Problem’

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Research indicates that 5.5 million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution. Over four million of these deaths are due to household air pollution from cooking with smoky stoves. In China, the biggest contributor is outdoor air pollution, due to burning coal. In India, the main cause is indoor air pollution from cooking and heating stoves burning wood, dung, and other sources of biomass. Kirk Smith, University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, has found that about half the outdoor air pollution in India also comes from these indoor stoves. Smith stated, “A typical wood-burning stove might produce 400 cigarettes’ worth of smoke every hour.” Women and children tend to inhale most of the toxic particles.

One solution is the replacement of these polluting stoves with an affordable solar stove. One Earth Designs developed a stove for this very purpose—a smoke-free cooking apparatus that collects and concentrates sunlight at 92 percent efficiency. Catlin Powers, CEO of One Earth Designs, and her team studied climate change in the Himalayas, and detected a level of pollution inside a Himalayan family’s home that was three times as great as Beijing’s outdoor air quality. In high-altitude regions, such as the Himalayas and Andes, lower oxygen levels mean that fires burn even dirtier, and concentrate toxicity. Dr. Smith concluded, “Instead of trying to make the available (tech) clean, we can try to make clean (tech) available.”


Lynne Peeples, “How Do You Fight The World’s ‘Largest Environmental Health Problem’? Harness The Sun.” Huff Post Politics, Jan. 4, 2016,

University of British Columbia, “Poor Air Quality Kills 5.5 Million Worldwide Annually” EurekAlert!, February 12, 2016,

Student Researcher: Monique Tiffer, San Francisco State University

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows, San Francisco State University