Exposure to household air pollution from solid cookfuels and childhood stunting: a population-based, cross-sectional study of half a million children in low- and middle-income countries

Int Health. 2022 Nov 1;14(6):639-647. doi: 10.1093/inthealth/ihab090.


Background: Household air pollution from the incomplete combustion of solid cookfuels in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has been largely ignored as a potentially important correlate of stunting. Our objective was to examine the association between solid cookfuel use and stunting in children aged <5 y.

Methods: We used data from 59 LMICs' population-based cross-sectional demographic and health surveys; 557 098 children aged <5 y were included in our analytical sample. Multilevel logistic regression was used to examine the association between exposure to solid cookfuel use and childhood stunting, adjusting for child sex, age, maternal education and number of children living in the household. We explored the association across key subgroups.

Results: Solid cookfuel use was associated with child stunting (adjusted OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.55 to 1.61). Children living in households using solid cookfuels were more likely to be stunted if they lived in rural areas, the poorest households, had a mother who smoked tobacco or were from the Americas.

Conclusions: Focused strategies to reduce solid cookfuel exposure might contribute to reductions in childhood stunting in LMICs. Trial evidence to assess the effect of reducing solid cookfuel exposure on childhood stunting is urgently needed.

Keywords: child growth; demographic and health surveys; indoor air pollution; stunting.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developing Countries*
  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology
  • Growth Disorders / etiology
  • Humans
  • Poverty