Health risks associated with the production and usage of charcoal: a systematic review

Oladipo S. Idowu, Liane Beretta De Azevedo, Fatemeh V. Zohoori, Kehinde Kanmodi, Tannaz Pak

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Charcoal production and utilisation are linked to various health issues and occupational hazards. However, to our knowledge, no systematic review has primarily focused on the health implications of charcoal production and its use while distinguishing charcoal from other solid fuels such as wood and coal. Objectives This systematic review presents a synthesis of the evidence on the health risks associated with producing and using charcoal across the world. Design Systematic review using a systematic narrative synthesis approach. Data sources MEDLINE (through Ovid interface), CINAHL, Embase, Web of Science, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library and SCOPUS, from inception to 26 February 2021. Eligibility criteria for selecting studies Peer-reviewed journal articles reporting empirical findings on the associations between charcoal usage/production and health parameters. Data extraction and synthesis Two independent reviewers extracted data and assessed the quality of primary studies. Results Our findings showed that charcoal production and usage are linked with specific adverse health outcomes, including respiratory diseases (n=21), cardiorespiratory and neurological diseases (n=1), cancer (n=3), DNA damage (n=3), carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning (n=2), physical injury (n=2), sick house syndrome (n=1), unintentional weight loss and body mass index (BMI) reduction (n=2), increase in blood pressure (n=1) and CO death (n=1). Among the included articles that reported respiratory diseases (n=21), there was one case of asthma and tuberculosis and two cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Conclusions This review links charcoal production/usage and some associated human health risks. These include respiratory diseases and other non-respiratory illnesses such as sick-building syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, DNA damage, CO poisoning and death, unintentional weight loss and BMI reduction, and physical injuries.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere065914
Number of pages14
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023

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