The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on public health with more than 25 million cases confirmed worldwide. To better understand how the virus is impacting individuals exposed to chronic household air pollution (HAP) from indoor cooking and heating, the Clean Cooking Alliance (Alliance) convened more than 60 experts for a virtual workshop in August.

Research shows that exposure to both HAP and ambient air pollution have numerous negative effects on an individual’s health, including decreased pulmonary, cardiovascular, and nervous system functions and even possible reductions to one’s immune functions.

As such, the Alliance aimed to further explore how HAP is impacting individuals living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where HAP exposure is widespread and public health infrastructure tends to be less developed. The workshop also looked at whether improving population health by reducing HAP could be a critical mitigator of future respiratory pandemics.

Over the course of the two-day workshop, experts in the fields of household air pollution, epidemiology, immunology, virology, infectious disease, and other relevant fields explored key research questions such as:

  • Does HAP exposure affect the course of COVID-19 disease (e.g., disease severity, mortality)?
  • Does HAP exposure play a role in infection risk for COVID-19?
  • How has COVID-19 impacted access to and the use of clean cooking, and what is the subsequent impact on HAP exposure and related human health outcomes?

In workshop discussions, participants examined possible associations between chronic HAP exposure and COVID-19. They explored whether exposure to HAP is likely to increase the risk of infection or result in more severe cases of COVID-19. Participants agreed that further research is needed to investigate this interaction in order to support public health responses now and in the future.

The workshop also focused on the practical challenges of studying the HAP-COVID relationship under the current circumstances, namely risk management and personal protective equipment protocols necessary for in-field research during a pandemic. Other key focuses of the workshop were potential data sources, feasible study designs, and recent or ongoing studies on which HAP-COVID research could be built.

Click here to view the workshop presentations.

Click here to view the workshop key takeaways.

As a result of the workshop, the Alliance has released a Request for Proposals to support research that advances our understanding of the interaction between chronic HAP exposure and COVID-19 in community or clinical settings in LMICs.

For a collection of information and tools to help clean cooking companies and employees adapt to the pandemic’s changing landscape, visit the Alliance’s COVID-19 Resource Page.