Mr. Jose Ernesto Palacios knows the complexities of dealing with a respiratory illness. He was in a coma because of it. One of the actions he has taken to reduce risks is to install a biodigester at home, at the Private Wildlife Reserve of Pantasma - Jinotega, and thus preventing his family to inhale the smoke that does so much harm to their lungs.
According to estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) about 4.3 million people die each year worldwide due to the air pollution in households emitted by rudimentary biomass and coal stoves. Biogas systems that have been installed in rural areas of Nicaragua with the support of the National Biogas Programme (NBP) have improved the economy and health of more than three thousand people in two years.
The Herrera Palacios family, from Pantasma - Jinotega, has been one of the beneficiaries of this program. "I am aware of the effects of dead wood on health, I was in a coma for 15 days due to an affectation initiated by a respiratory problem," says Mr. José Ernesto Palacios. "Now we receive multiple benefits," he proudly says.
Mrs. Maricela Herrera Palacios said that she previously used about 30 slices of dead wood every day (more than a thousand per year) in her artisanal stove. Now she is happy with the biogas stove, she stopped inhaling smoke, her kitchen and silverware are now cleaner and there is a better environment for her children.
In homes with stoves that burn coal or biomass at open environments and that do not have ventilation, emissions of suspended particulate matter and other pollutants can be 100 times higher than the levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Such contaminants are carcinogenic and also cause heart and lung diseases since they weaken the immune response, they reduce the oxygen carrying capacity in the blood and also cause widespread inflammation and ischemia, among other physiological disorders.
Women and young children, who spend more time closer to home, are especially vulnerable, and are the most benefited from biogas systems. "Worldwide, more than 50% of deaths from pneumonia in children under five are related to air pollution in homes," points out WHO.
The bio digester system of the Herrera Palacios family generates eight hours of gas daily for a two-burner stove. "In the biogas stove I prepare all food: boil beans, make soup, cook tortillas for seven people every day," said Maricela. In addition, those hours we used each day for collecting dead wood for the stoves, they are now used in other more productive activities.