Woman cooking over wood stove.A Nepali woman cooking over a wood-fed stove.Photo courtesy ah zut via FlickrEverybody knows that if you play with fire you get burned. But who knew wood-burning stoves were so especially deadly? According to the United Nations, stoves kill nearly 2 million people each year — mostly women and children. That’s because the stoves powered by crop waste, wood, coal, and even dung that are most common in the developing world cause dangerous indoor air pollution. Now the U.S. is looking to do something about it. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to pledge $50 million to purchase and distribute 100 million clean-burning stoves in the developing world through a group called the Global Alliance for Clean Cookware [PDF], as The New York Times reports.

This initiative would not only address the health issue, it would also benefit the environment, says Reuters.

Smoke from such cooking methods can lead to childhood pneumonia, lung cancer, bronchitis and cardiovascular disease while contributing to climate change through emissions of carbon dioxide and methane — two major greenhouse gases — and black carbon.

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Bloomberg points out that stove pollution has been an overlooked global health issue:

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Smoke from poorly ventilated cookstoves contributes to the early deaths of more than 2 million people a year, according to the U.N. Foundation. Malaria kills 1 million people a year, according to the World Health Organization, and 343,000 mothers died in 2008 in childbirth or from related complications, the British medical journal Lancet reported.

Maybe this will light a fire under world leaders and get them to take action on more global health and environmental issues. But I’m not holding my breath (unless I’m in the kitchen).

More green news:

Thank you, global warming: Here’s one upside to climate change: a drop in bubonic plague cases in the United States. [The New York Times]

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Spies of the law: The FBI treated Greenpeace and PETA activists like sh*t. [ABC News]

Can it!: A new study says Americans are exposed to eight times more BPA than what is a deemed safe for humans. [The New York Times]

Thinking outside the box [store]: Walmart plans to use thin-film solar panels at 30 locations. What’s that, like, .000001 percent of all Walmarts? [Grist’s Todd Woody]