Fox Callously Dismisses Value Of 4.3 Million Lives Lost To Pollution

Fox News Brushes Off A Pressing Global Need For Clean Stove Technology

Fox News brushed aside the value of Environmental Protection Agency research grants for clean cooking and heating technologies, saying that the dangerous indoor pollution from dirty stoves is only “a mere contribution” to 4.3 million deaths, and fearmongered that the EPA would soon come after American stoves. However, even Fox News' “favorite” environmental pundit has said that the fact that millions are dying from dirty cooking stoves -- more deaths than from AIDS and malaria combined -- is an “immediate problem.”

EPA To Give Grants For Research Into Clean Stove Technology

EPA Awarded Grants To Universities To Research Clean Cookstove Technology. On May 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would distribute nearly $9 million in research grants to six universities across the country to research clean cookstove technology. From the EPA's blog:

Nearly three billion people worldwide rely on burning fuels such as wood, plant matter, coal, and animal waste. And because most of that occurs indoors, it's a health hazard, too. The World Health Organization estimates that exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves leads to 4.3 million premature deaths per year.


What's more, it's not just a local problem. The smoke from traditional cookstoves is a major source of black carbon, an air pollutant linked to a range of impacts associated with our changing climate, including increased temperatures, accelerated ice and snow melt, and changes in the pattern and intensity of precipitation.


Funded through our Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, the research will focus on measuring and communicating the benefits of adopting cleaner cooking, heating, and lighting practices. The impact of the work will improve air quality and protect the health of billions of people, as well as slow climate change--a benefit for everyone, and the global environment, too. [EPA blog, 5/28/14]

Pollution From Dirty Stoves Kills More People Than AIDS And Malaria Combined

World Health Organization: Nearly 3 Billion Use Dirty Technology To Cook And Heat Homes. The World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations, states that currently about 3 billion people -- nearly half of the global population -- cook and heat their homes using inefficient and dirty technologies, including open fires and “simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.” The WHO calls this phenomenon “the forgotten 3 billion.” [World Health Organization, accessed 5/28/14]

WHO: 4.3 Million Deaths Are “Attributable To” Pollution Caused By Clean Stoves. The WHO determined that the pollutants from inefficient stoves lead to 4.3 million premature deaths each year, and are particularly harmful towards women and children:

More than 50% of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.


In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for small particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.


4.3 million people a year die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution caused by the inefficient use of solid fuels (2012 data). Among these deaths:

  • 12% are due to pneumonia
  • 34% from stroke
  • 26% from ischaemic heart disease
  • 22% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and
  • 6% from lung cancer. [World Health Organization, accessed 5/28/14]

Pollution From Dirty Stoves Kills More People Than AIDS And Malaria Combined. Reuters reported that “there were about 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths in 2011 and malaria killed about 660,000 people in 2010,” while 3.5 million die early each year from indoor air pollution from dirty stoves, according to earlier 2012 data from the WHO (the number has since increased to 4.3 million per year):

Air pollution is an underestimated scourge that kills far more people than AIDS and malaria and a shift to cleaner energy could easily halve the toll by 2030, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.


A 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) study found that 3.5 million people die early annually from indoor air pollution and 3.3 million from outdoor air pollution. 


By comparison, U.N. reports show there were about 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths in 2011 and malaria killed about 660,000 people in 2010. [Reuters, 4/9/13]

Fox News Heartlessly Dismisses Need For Clean Cookstoves

Fox's Varney: Dirty Stoves Are “A Mere Contribution To Those [4.3 Million] Deaths.” Fox News contributor Stuart Varney dismissed the WHO statistics on the May 28 edition of Fox & Friends, saying that dirty stoves were only “a mere contribution” to 4.3 million deaths, not a cause:

VARNEY: The World Health Organization says that cooking stoves, smoky fires contribute to 4.3 million premature deaths per year. What does contribute mean? Does it mean that cooking fires create 4.3 million premature deaths? No. A mere contribution to those deaths. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/28/14]

Fox News Fearmongers: “Obama's EPA Targets Your Stove.” Fox Nation promoted a Washington Times article with the headline “Obama's EPA Targets Your Stove Now ...”  However, the Washington Times article actually disparaged the research because “most of the problem lives far from the shores of the U.S.,” suggesting that “an agency charged with protecting Americans from pollution” should not be “focused on a problem that is far more prevalent off U.S. shores.” [Washington Times, 5/26/14; Fox Nation, 5/27/14]

Even Fox's “Favorite” Environmental Pundit Agrees: Clean Cookstoves Are Important Global Issue

Fox's “Favorite” Bjorn Lomborg: Dirty Stoves Are An “Immediate Problem.” Fox's Stuart Varney once called Bjorn Lomborg, who frequently uses his media platform to deride large-scale action on climate change, “our favorite rational environmentalist.” Lomborg recently argued that dirty heating and cooking technology is a “more immediate problem” than climate change in a New York Times op-ed:

There's a lot of hand-wringing about our warming planet, but billions of people face a more immediate problem: They are desperately poor, and many cook and heat their homes using open fires or leaky stoves that burn dirty fuels like wood, dung, crop waste and coal.

About 3.5 million of them die prematurely each year as a result of breathing the polluted air inside their homes -- about 200,000 more than the number who die prematurely each year from breathing polluted air outside, according to a [2012] study by the World Health Organization.


Even more people -- an estimated three billion -- still cook and heat their homes using open fires and leaky stoves, according to the energy agency. More efficient stoves could help. And solar panels could provide LED lights and power to charge cellphones. [Media Matters, 7/12/11; New York Times, 12/3/13]

Cookstoves Are Part Of A Global Issue That Will Impact U.S.

Dirty Cookstoves Are A Major Contributor To Manmade Climate Change. The WHO detailed that inefficient stove combustion emits “black carbon (sooty particles) and methane,” both of which are “powerful climate change pollutants.” The New York Times expanded on the contribution of dirty stoves to global climate change, reporting they are “perhaps the second biggest contributor to global warming” :

The stoves also contribute to global warming as a result of the millions of tons of soot they spew into the atmosphere and the deforestation caused by cutting down trees to fuel them.


Although the toxic smoke from the primitive stoves is one of the leading environmental causes of death and disease, and perhaps the second biggest contributor to global warming, after the industrial use of fossil fuels, it has long been neglected by governments and private aid organizations. [World Health Organization, accessed 5/28/14; New York Times, 9/20/10]

Without Change In Policy Or Technology, Reliance On Dirty Cookstoves Will Prevent Sustainable Development. According to the World Bank, a substantial shift in policy is necessary to decrease the total number of people relying on dirty fuels by 2030, and that “the use of polluting fuels also poses a major burden on sustainable development.” [World Bank, 2010, via World Health Organization]

Climate Change Already Impacts The United States. A recent federal report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program detailed the current and future impacts of climate change across the country, stating that climate change “has moved firmly into the present.”

Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska. This National Climate Assessment concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country. [U.S. Global Change Research Program, 5/6/14]