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Smoke from streetside grills a health hazard, studies reveal

The Faculty of Public Health of the University of Health Sciences has disseminated the results of studies titled “Air pollution exposure among grill workers in Laos: Issues of inequalities and gender” and “Emissions of air pollution and GHGs from multiple sources in Vientiane”.
The studies were carried out to assess the public health risks of the burning of charcoal by streetside vendors selling grilled meat, which causes toxic airborne pollutants that have adverse health effects.

Officials chair a meeting on Wednesday to discuss smoke pollution from barbecues.

Associate Prof. Dr Akao Lyvongsa was among those attending the meeting on Wednesday to publicise the results of the studies.
The studies stated that biomass combustion creates airborne toxic elements both in the solid and gaseous states and that this particulate matter has been documented as a human carcinogen.
In Laos, premature death due to air pollution exposure is high compared to other countries.
Air pollution caused 8,043 premature deaths in Laos in 2019, according to the Global Disease Study conducted in 2019.
Total PM 2.5 emissions in 2019 were estimated at 37.1 and 3.72  thousand tonnes in Laos and in Vientiane respectively, according to the study.
As more people in Laos move to towns and cities, grilled food vendors have become a popular part of the informal food economy throughout the country.
Grilled foods are typically prepared outside restaurants or on mobile street-carts, contributing to indoor and outdoor pollution.
Women spent more days of the week (6-7 days per week) than men grilling with charcoal (90.7 percent versus 81.7 percent), the study showed.
However, women are more likely to be working at the grill without an assistant (47.9 percent versus 39.8 percent).
This is plausible because of gender-based expectations on women regarding the type of work they do and gender stereotypes.
The Faculty of Public Health partnered with the Natural Resource and Environmental Research Institute and the Stockholm Environment Institute to research the subject, with support from the International Development Research Centre.
It was agreed that a working group could be established to determine policy actions to reduce the exposure of grilled food workers to barbecue smoke and find sustainable solutions.
Suggestions included women having more rest hours and more days off from working in front of grills and that grill workers should take it in turns to work for shifts of two hours, especially women.
There should also be increased enforcement of the Law on Social Security.
It was also agreed that women should wear protective equipment to reduce smoke inhalation while grilling food.
Policies which aim to reduce emissions from major source sectors highlighted in the studies could have significant health benefits.

By Times Reporters
 (Latest Update September 30, 2022)


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