If you have been cooking using biomass fuels like wood, then you may need to slow down a bit as new research showed that this could possibly lead to lung damage.

A study presented during the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) showed that those who cook using biomass fuels like wood have a higher risk of suffering from lung damage. They are normally exposed to higher concentrations of bacterial endotoxins and pollutants.

The researchers utilised advanced imaging with CT to find the effects of cooking with biomass fuels. Eric A. Hoffman from the University of Iowa, along with a researcher from Periyar Maniammai Institute of Science and Technology, looked at the cooking pollutants among 23 people, who were cooking with wood biomass or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in India.

They then measured the level of pollutants and studied the individuals' lung functions. Some of the tests they used were spirometry and advanced CT scanning, the latter of which was utilised to make quantitative measurements. The CT scans were used to measure the image of a person when he inhales, and to measure it thereafter. Researchers then compare images to see how well the lungs were functioning.

Analysing the images, the researchers found that those who cooked using wood were exposed to more pollutants as compared to LPG users. They also showed that they have higher levels of air trappings in the lungs, which is a condition that has been associated with a disease of the lungs.

An air trapping in the lungs indicates that there is a part of the lung that is not able to properly exchange air with the environment. When a person breathes in, the lungs do not get enough oxygen into that particular region and hinders the elimination of carbon dioxide.

Dr Kizhakke Puliyakote, co-author of the study said that the part of the lung with air trapping has "impaired gas exchange." The researchers also found that in one-third of participants who use biomass in cooking, more than 50 percent of the air that they breathe end up being trapped in their lungs.

Puliyakote also added that the increased sensitivity of the subgroup is also seen in tobacco smokers. He also mentioned that there might be a genetic basis that makes a number of individuals predisposed to be more "susceptible" to their environment.

Cooking with wood
Cooking with wood may lead to lung damage. Photo: Pixabay

He added that traditional tests do not always capture the extent of the damage from biomass fuels. With CT imaging, it is an entirely different story because it is so sensitive that researchers were able to detect regional changes in organs before they become full-blown diseases. Through imaging, doctors are also able to make follow-ups and detect any progression of the disease.