Prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in rural women of Tamilnadu: implications for refining disease burden assessments attributable to household biomass combustion

Glob Health Action. 2011;4:7226. doi: 10.3402/gha.v4i0.7226. Epub 2011 Nov 3.


Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the 13th leading cause of burden of disease worldwide and is expected to become 5th by 2020. Biomass fuel combustion significantly contributes to COPD, although smoking is recognized as the most important risk factor. Rural women in developing countries bear the largest share of this burden resulting from chronic exposures to biomass fuel smoke. Although there is considerable strength of evidence for the association between COPD and biomass smoke exposure, limited information is available on the background prevalence of COPD in these populations.

Objective: This study was conducted to estimate the prevalence of COPD and its associated factors among non-smoking rural women in Tiruvallur district of Tamilnadu in Southern India.

Design: This cross-sectional study was conducted among 900 non-smoking women aged above 30 years, from 45 rural villages of Tiruvallur district of Tamilnadu in Southern India in the period between January and May 2007. COPD assessments were done using a combination of clinical examination and spirometry. Logistic regression analysis was performed to examine the association between COPD and use of biomass for cooking. R software was used for statistical analysis.

Results: The overall prevalence of COPD in this study was found to be 2.44% (95% CI: 1.43-3.45). COPD prevalence was higher in biomass fuel users than the clean fuel users 2.5 vs. 2%, (OR: 1.24; 95% CI: 0.36-6.64) and it was two times higher (3%) in women who spend >2 hours/day in the kitchen involved in cooking. Use of solid fuel was associated with higher risk for COPD, although no statistically significant results were obtained in this study.

Conclusion: The estimates generated in this study will contribute significantly to the growing database of available information on COPD prevalence in rural women. Moreover, with concomitant indoor air pollution measurements, it may be possible to increase the resolution of the association between biomass use and COPD prevalence and refine available attributable burden of disease estimates.

Keywords: biomass fuel users; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; disease burden; prevalence; rural women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects
  • Cooking*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fossil Fuels / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health*
  • Smoke / adverse effects*
  • Spirometry
  • Women's Health*


  • Fossil Fuels
  • Smoke