Indoor air pollution in a Mexican indigenous community: evaluation of risk reduction program using biomarkers of exposure and effect

Sci Total Environ. 2008 Feb 15;390(2-3):362-8. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2007.10.039. Epub 2007 Nov 26.


Indoor air pollution can be an important risk factor for human health, considering that people spend more than 60% of their time indoors. Fifty percent of the world population and approximately 90% of the rural population in developing countries are using biomass as energy source. Latin America represents 12% of the global consumption of biomass; in Mexico, 27 million people use wood as an energy source. Therefore, in this study we evaluated a 3-stage risk reduction program. The stages were: 1) removal of indoor soot adhered to roofs and internal walls; 2) paving the dirt floors; and 3) introduction of a new wood stove with a metal chimney that expels smoke outdoors. The complete intervention program was applied. In 20 healthy subject residents from an indigenous community in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, we measured blood carboxyhemoglobin (% COHb), DNA damage (comet assay) in nucleated blood cells, and urinary 1-OHP levels before and after the program. Before intervention individuals had a geometric mean COHb level of 4.93% and 53% of the population presented levels above 2.5% considered a safe level. However, in all the studied individuals the levels of COHb were reduced to below 2.5% (mean level 1.0%) one month after the intervention. Moreover, when compared, DNA damage in people exposed before the intervention was higher (5.8+/-1.3 of Tail Moment) than when the program was introduced (2.8+/-0.9 of Tail Moment) (P>0.05) and a same trend was observed with urinary 1-OHP levels; 6.71+/-3.58 micromol/mol creatinine was the concentration before intervention; whereas, 4.80+/-3.29 micromol/mol creatinine was the one after the program. The results suggest that the intervention program offers an acceptable risk reduction to those families that use biomass for food cooking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Carboxyhemoglobin / analysis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comet Assay
  • Cooking / methods*
  • DNA Damage
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexico
  • Population Groups
  • Pyrenes / analysis
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Wood


  • Biomarkers
  • Pyrenes
  • Carboxyhemoglobin
  • 1-hydroxypyrene