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A study involving nearly half a million people in China reveals a clear link between cooking with wood or coal, and an increased risk of major eye diseases that can lead to blindness, according to a report published today in PLOS Medicine.

An open wood fire

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.

The researchers from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH) and the Chinese Academy of Medical Science and Peking University, Beijing, analysed 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 ten-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 among study participants.

Read the full story on the Nuffield Department of Population Health website

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