A large population in South Asia is susceptible to respiratory ailments including lung cancer, as they still use wood, crop wastes, charcoal, dung and kerosene as kitchen fuel.

On the occasion of World Lung Cancer Day which is being observed on Sunday, Shahriar Hossain, a Bangladeshi environmentalist, said the kitchen smokes is the cause of lung cancer afflicting housewives.

He said the use of dry fuel also puts kids at risk, who are always with their mothers, when they cook food and inhale smoke.

Even at places where cooking gas cylinders are available, poor households still prefer to use the solid fuel, as they find cylinders out of their budgetary limits.

Abdul Mannan, 27, living in south-central Bhola island district of Bangladesh, said his family had managed to procure a gas connection, but it has proved expensive.

“We have to depend on wood and a kerosene stove. In recent years, we managed to avail cooking gas cylinders with high prices but we do not use them very often as it is expensive for the poor like us," he said.

While the family of five knows the health risks of the smoke that their women inhale from the preparation of food in the kitchen, they express their helplessness, with little options available.

"People’s vulnerability has been manifold due to indoor air pollution, certainly in the kitchen,” says Hossain, who is also secretary of the Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO).

He estimates that least 200,000 people in Bangladesh could die as a result of respiratory diseases and long-term exposure to high concentrations of contaminated air.

In Pakistan 10,538 new cases of lung cancer have been diagnosed in 2020, according to International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The IARC report said that lung cancer accounts for 5.9% of total cancer cases in the country.

Dr. Javed Hayat, a consultant pulmonologist in Lahore, said the dung used for cooking purposes adds arsenic in fumes resulting in cough and chronic bronchitis in the female population.

“Any substance which goes through inhaling into the lungs can cause cancer in the longer term,” he said.

Further the late diagnosis and falling the trap of quacks decreases the survival rate of patients.