Millions of lives’ safety depends on LPG

Millions of lives’ safety depends on LPG

One of the main debates that involve oil and gas industries concerns the environmental pollution, particularly regarding the household air pollution.

Apart from diesel air pollution, often the main concerns are about carbon dioxide emissions leading to climate change risks.

However, as reported by Forbes, it is essential the industry keeps in mind that one of its products, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG — bottled gas containing propane and butane), is the most effective solution available for the largest environmental health risk in the world: cooking with solid fuels.

In the latest Global Burden of Disease assessment (GBD) it is estimated that smoke from daily use of solid fuels for cooking is responsible for 3.9 million premature deaths annually, mostly in the form of child pneumonia and chronic lung and circulatory diseases in adults. Highly polluting biomass (wood, crop residues, and dung) and coal cook fuels together account for nearly 5% of the lost healthy life years from all causes globally, making them the largest environmental health hazard.

LPG and health

The chef and culinary innovator José Andrés has been a speaker in a conference organised by WLPG Association, with whom is working on a project going forward, in order to achieve his aim: to be a chef that is not feeding the fews but is helping to feed the many.

Indeed, while we take for granted the flame for cooking, for millions around the world it is actually devastating.

According to the World Half Organisation four millions people die every year. This does not happen only in underdeveloped countries, as in parts of Asia or Africa, but also in places that should be a paradise, as Haiti, only two hours travelling from Miami, said José Andrés.

The global death toll from household cooking smoke is much higher than anyone previously thought. Supporting the statistics listed by WHO, also GBD 2010 showed that each year an estimated four million people die prematurely from constant exposure to household air pollution due to cooking with wood, dung, or kerosene and on open fires or traditional stoves. The huge upwards revision is because researchers had access to much better data, especially on heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease, all diseases on the rise.

Furthermore, the GBD Study revealed that 500,000 of these premature deaths are due to ‘second-hand’ cooking smoke, which acts much the same way as tobacco smoke on non-smokers.

It represents also the second-largest risk factor for women and girls, but it is reasonably believed men are more damaged by cooking smoke than previously thought, in part due to ambient cooking smoke that wafts through the home and outside through the door or chimney.

The household air pollution affects twice the people who die prematurely from HIV/AIDS, three times more than tuberculosis, and seven times more people than malaria.

Nevertheless, the main issue is that even though this is a risk factor, it is actually not a disease and it does not get the same treatment as other global diseases.

Household air pollution is now the single largest environmental risk factor for illness, representing also a serious environmental problem.

A recently released study led by Household Energy, Climate and Health Research Group at the University of California in Berkeley and the University of Illinois gives an indication of the wider planetary damage wreaked by household air pollution. The study showed that just the kerosene used in simple wick lamps by millions of households in the developing world emits 20 times the black carbon previously estimated. While one kilo of black carbon produces enough warming in one month as 700 kilos of CO2 in 100 years, LPG emits zero black carbon.

The same study revealed also a large share of the world’s population – 40% – still relies on traditional fuels for cooking, such as wood, kerosene and dung. Many of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing countries in South Asia.

Unfortunately, although the quantity of people worldwide using clean fuels for cooking has been rising to balance population growth, the number of households using solid fuels has stagnated at about 2.8 billion people for at least two decades.

Even though the biggest constraint might seem the cost, there are other barriers to more widespread LPG use. Reliable supplies are still elusive in many rural areas where distribution networks operate poorly with slow outmoded procedures and weak infrastructures. A lack of more innovative financing approaches both for distributors and consumers, and the use of modern systems perhaps represents one of the main barrier at the moment, considering also that  downstream technology in the industry also tends to be ancient, when smaller, lighter, safer LPG cylinders and associated management systems offer greater penetration to poor populations.

But while it is unlikely that the poorest households can currently afford full price for LPG, the needed societal support would not be wasted. In India, for example, the economic value of the health improvement and time-savings of a switch from biomass to LPG averages about US$300 per household every year, more than the full cost of the LPG.

In spite of the opposition regarding this topic, the industry should be proud to have a product as the LPG, the only currently available product to convincingly attack the largest environmental health threat globally.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) in its 2011 World Energy Outlook predicts that if countries adopt new policies, and global annual investment increases by a little more than half, by 2030 the number of households without access to clean cook stoves and modern energy will actually increase by 40% in Sub-Saharan Africa, and remain practically unchanged globally.

Governments, development agencies, multilateral banks and NGOs in developing countries should be involved in a concerted global effort to sort this issue out. Having been supported this global challenge, last September WLPGA launched the campaign Cooking for Life, developing long-term partnerships with international organisations, unite public and private companies in this industry, and implement projects locally and globally, getting also special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

A big part of the solution, according to the IEA’s Energy for All Scenario, is greater access to clean-burning LPG, which the Agency projects should fill about 40% of the global access gap.


Nowadays LPG represents a clean-burning, sustainable and efficient fuel and a vital source of energy for hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. It is portable and transportable, stored and used virtually anywhere in the world and there are sufficient reserves to last for many decades and with several different applications.

As a clean, lower carbon, efficient and innovative energy it offers benefits to consumers, industry and the environment. With an immediate and global availability, environmental benefits, LPG plays an important role in the transition towards a more secure, sustainable and competitive energy model.

Despite the massive support offered by the LPG, especially for cooking and used in cylinders, it is essential to remind that an improper use of LPG steel cylinders can be devastating.

Indeed, also in UK many blasts have been occurred this year, as in Buckinghamshire as recently reported by BBC and in Wisbech where there was a gas cylinder explosion on the 14th of April as reported by Peterborough Telegraph.

Yet, many domestic accidents have been occurred in underdeveloped countries, for example in Vasai, as reported by Times of India, where six people, including a couple and an infant sustained burn injuries after an LPG cylinder leakage led to an explosion in March 2015, or, during the same month, the death of a 35-year-old woman in an explosion and fire caused by an LPG cylinder blast at Domalapalli village near Nalgonda, as reported by The Hindu.

These facts might point out the necessity to use LPG in a safer way, such as in composite LPG cylinders, which for their features would eliminate a lot of issues associated with the traditional cylinders, in order to guarantee to the consumers higher quality and safety standards.