Cooking with coal or wood linked to higher risk of eye disease

A decade-long study involving close to half a million adults found that choice of cooking fuel can increase the risk of major eye disease

Pixabay/Gábor Adonyi
Cooking with coal or wood has been linked to an elevated risk of eye disease over time, including glaucoma, conjunctivitis, and keratitis.

The research, which was published in PLOS Medicine, examined the relationship between the type of cooking fuel used by 486,532 people and the development of eye disease over a 10-year follow up period.

During the decade that study participants were followed, there were 4877 cases of conjunctiva disorders, 13,408 cataracts, 1583 disorders of the sclera, cornea, iris and ciliary body and 1534 cases of glaucoma among study participants.

Compared with those who used ‘clean’ fuels, such as electricity or gas, participants who cooked with coal or wood were more likely to be older, female, rural and less educated.

Agricultural workers and those who smoked were also more likely to use solid fuel.

After accounting for these factors, people who used solid fuel were 32% more likely to suffer disease of the conjunctiva and had a 17% greater risk of developing cataracts than those who used electricity or gas.

Solid fuel users also had a 35% greater risk of developing disease of the sclera, cornea, iris or ciliary body.

Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health and the Chinese Academy of Medical Science and Peking University, Beijing, analysed data from the China Kadoorie Biobank for the study.

Lead author, Dr Peter Ka Hung Chan, from the Nuffield Department of Population Health, explained: “The increased risks may be caused by exposure to high levels of fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide, which can damage the eye surface and cause inflammation.”