Household pollution – the invisible killer

 Household pollution – the invisible killer

Household smoke – causing respiratory infections; is thought to be the world’s most lethal environmental problem.

In Kenya for instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year, up to 15,000 premature deaths can be directly blamed on household air pollution.

Wood and charcoal fires (primarily used for cooking) are among the leading emitters of a deadly Particulate Matter dubbed (PM2.5) responsible for respiratory complications.

To put it into perspective, a Particulate Matter (PM) is essentially just suspended particles in the air that we breathe. They could be solid or air molecules – so tiny; about 30 times less than the diameter of a single strand of human hair.

Because of the small size of its particles, PM2.5 can penetrate deeply into the lungs, irritate and corrode the alveolar wall, and consequently impair lung function leading to devastating consequences.

Some medical journals even claim that eight years of constant exposure to PM2.5 could lead to lung cancer and in some cases diabetes.

The solution – Clean cooking Stoves. These stoves are an inexpensive way to reduce respiratory ailments and improve air quality.

Now governments in developing nations and even the private sector have been conducting a big push for homes to switch to clean cooking stoves by 2025.

Not surprisingly, households have been readily switching to the newer stoves and the results are positive. But in cases where owners were responsible for the upkeep and proper use of the stoves, enthusiasm for these clean cooking stoves waned off overtime.

Kenyans, especially those in low-income areas can be surprisingly stubborn for failing to conform to this obviously rational and healthier model. But instead of expecting them to do the right thing, a better approach may be to design devices that fit into their lives with minimal effort.

Otherwise, despite good intentions, these Clean cooking Stoves won’t affect meaningful change other than the addition of a shiny new toy.

To this end, Safaricom and M-Gas have unveiled a revolutionary, prepaid clean cooking gas service for Kenyan households. Each M-Gas setup will include a gas cylinder and a 2-burner gas cooker which will be provided to households at no upfront cost.

The gas cylinder will come equipped with an innovative smart meter and the prepaid element will enable a customer to track how much gas a customer has paid for and how much they have remaining.

This initiative is revolutionary in the sense that in addition to receiving the M-Gas setup at no cost, the customer will have the flexibility of purchasing smoke-free cooking gas based on their needs and how much they can afford at a time, essentially eliminating the upfront cost required for a gas cylinder and gas cooker plus the refill cost.

The M-Gas setup also has the backing of technology that fits well into people’s lives. All payments will be made via M-PESA with the gas automatically disconnecting when a customer has completely consumed the amount paid for.

Safaricom and M-GAS
Andron Mendes inventor of the smart meter takes Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph
through the smart meter during the M-Gas launch

But technology is no substitute for the human element. Gas users will no longer have to grapple with the hassle of maintenance and managing the replenishment of empty cylinders as the smart meter that is powered by Safaricom’s Narrow Band Internet of Things (NB IoT) will send an alert to M-Gas whenever the gas runs low.

M-Gas will then dispatch a refilled replacement to the customer, conveniently delivered to the comfort of their homes at no extra cost.


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