JAMA Logo Just yesterday we penned down an investigation which highlighted the probable harmful effects of inhaling air pollutants emitted from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. And here is another tidbit which sheds light on the detrimental impact of indoor coal use on early childhood growth. A recent study seemingly linked employment of coal for cooking or heating with children having a short stature.

In order to conduct the study, investigators assayed 1,133 children in the Czech Republic from birth till the age of 36 months. All the data was accumulated in the form of questionnaires filled by mothers and through medical records. 10.2 percent households of the study reported usage of coal for indoor heating or cooking along with 6.8 percent employing wood and 22.4 percent using coal as well as other fuel sources. After 36 months, boys in coal-burning households probably were almost 1.34 centimeters shorter than those from households employing other fuels. Girls in homes that used coal apparently were about 1.3 centimeters shorter than those raised in other houses.

Scientists quote, “Because weight and length or height during infancy and childhood are considered to be predictors of morbidity such as obesity and mortality from malnutrition and infections, and in light of an estimated 50 percent of the world population using coal and solid biomass as a domestic fuel, knowledge of such an adverse impact on child health is vital from an international child health perspective.”

Rakesh Ghosh, Ph.D., of University of California, Davis, and colleagues were unable to register any link between burning wood in the home and children’s height because households that used wood also employed other fuels. A combined exposure to coal use and cigarette smoke was supposedly correlated with even greater reductions in height. Children exposed to both coal use and cigarette smoke may be around 2.09 centimeters shorter than those who were not exposed to pollutants from either source. It was concluded that indoor air pollution from coal not only affects the respiratory system of children, but also their height.

The study is published online and will appear in the June print issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.