Globally, household and ambient air pollution (HAAP) leads to approximately seven million premature deaths per year. One of the main sources of household air pollution (HAP) is the traditional stove. So-called improved cookstoves (ICS) do not reduce emissions to levels that benefit health, but the poorest communities are unlikely to have access to cleaner cooking in the medium term. Therefore, ICS are being promoted as an intermediate step. This paper summarises the current evidence on the ICS available to the global poorest, utilising data from the Clean Cookstoves Catalog and systematic review evidence from the field. The cheapest stoves offer little reduction in HAP. Only one ICS, available at US$5 or less, (the canarumwe) minimally reduced pollutants based on ISO testing standards and no studies included in the systematic reviews reported tested this stove in the field. We recommend field testing all ICS as standard, and clear information on stove characteristics, sustainability, safety, emissions efficiency, in-field performance, affordability, availability in different settings, and the ability of the stove to meet community cooking needs. In addition, ICS should be promoted alongside a suite of measures, including improved ventilation and facilities to dry wood, to further reduce the pollutant levels.
Keywords: SDG 7; clean fuel access; global poorest; household air pollution; improved cookstoves.