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Journal of Environmental and Public Health
Volume 2012, Article ID 636298, 9 pages
Research Article

Pilot Study on the Impact of Biogas as a Fuel Source on Respiratory Health of Women on Rural Kenyan Smallholder Dairy Farms

1Department of Community Health & Epidemiology, Dalhousie University, 5790 University Avenue, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 1V7
2Centre for Veterinary Epidemiological Research, Department of Health Management, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, 550 University Avenue, Charlottetown, PE, Canada C1A 4P3
3School of Nursing, University of Prince Edward Island, 550 University Avenue, Charlottetown, PE, Canada C1A 4P3

Received 2 December 2011; Accepted 16 May 2012

Academic Editor: Bernard Tanguy

Copyright © 2012 Carolyn Dohoo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Biomass burning in indoor environments has been highlighted as a major cause of respiratory morbidity for women and children in low-income countries. Inexpensive technological innovations which reduce such exposures are needed. This study evaluated the impact of low tech compost digesters, which generate biogas for cooking, versus traditional fuel sources on the respiratory health of nonsmoking Kenyan farmwomen. Women from 31 farms with biogas digesters were compared to age-matched women from 31 biomass-reliant farms, in June 2010. Only 43% of the biogas group reported any breathing problems, compared to 71% in the referent group (P=0.03). Referent women self-reported higher rates of shortness of breath (52% versus 30%), difficulty breathing (42% versus 23%), and chest pain while breathing (35% versus 17%) during the last 6 months (P=0.09 to 0.12) compared to biogas women. Biogas women demonstrated slightly better spirometry results but differences were not statistically significant, likely due to limited latency between biogas digester installation and spirometry testing. Most biogas women reported improved personal respiratory health (87%) and improved children’s health (72%) since biogas digester installation. These findings suggest that using biogas in cookhouses improves respiratory symptoms but long-term impacts on lung function are unclear.