As they turn a dial to boil water or program a microwave to cook a chicken, Americans aren’t concerned about health hazards involved in preparing dinner. Globally, however, approximately 2.8 billion people rely on indoor cookstoves that burn solid fuels for daily cooking and heating. The household air pollution from these stoves causes millions of premature deaths annually and serious health conditions that greatly affect quality of life.
Seth Ebersviller, Ph.D., assistant professor of Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health Management (ESOH), has spent much of his academic and professional career researching the impact of cookstoves on public health.
“More than half of the world’s population cooks over an indoor campfire,” Ebersviller said. “Most of them are women and girls, so the impact on women’s health, especially, is significant.”
Ebersviller co-authored an article on this topic (“Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Fine Particulate Matter Emitted from Burning Kerosene, Liquid Petroleum Gas, and Wood Fuels in Household Cookstoves”) published in the January 2017 issue of Energy Fuels. The article investigates a combination of fuels and cookstoves to determine the rate of harmful emissions.
The effects of cookstove emissions can be so harmful that many women over age 60 in South America suffer from damaged corneas. They often lean over the stove while preparing food for their families and their eyes are exposed to damaging chemicals. Not as prevalent in the United States, indigenous populations in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest still show the health effects of indoor cooking, according to Ebersviller.
“For the most part, basic wood stoves that we use for heating in the U.S. aren’t a big problem,” Ebersviller added, “but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is interested for the good of the world.”
A Background in Public Health
Teaching in the ESOH program since January 2016, Ebersviller came to Findlay after a postdoctoral fellowship at the Cookstove Testing Facility at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. His wife Kim Lichtveld, Ph.D., also teaches in the ESOH program.
Ebersviller earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences and Engineering from the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Tennessee Technical University, Cookeville, Tenn.
The Bachelor of Science in Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health Management combines classes with professional internships and hands-on training. It is accredited by the American Board of Engineering Technology Applied Science Accreditation Commission (ABET-ASAC) and the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC).