New York (CNN) -- As a young wife campaigning for her husband, Hillary Clinton said she wouldn't be standing by her man baking cookies. But as Secretary of State she was singing a different tune Tuesday, cooking up some ideas alongside her husband at the Clinton Global Initiative.
"As we meet here in New York, women are cooking dinner for their families in homes and villages around the world," she said after being introduced by her husband. "The food they prepare is different on every continent, but the air they breathe is shockingly similar: a toxic mix of chemicals released by burning wood or other solid fuel can reach 200 times the amount the EPA considers safe. As the women cook, smoke fills their lungs, and the toxins begin poisoning them and their children."
According to Clinton and a new internationally focused partnership, nearly half of the world's population is cooking with dirty cook stoves and open fires. That situation was one of the top five health risks in poor, developing countries and it prematurely kills nearly 2 million people each year, many of them children under 5 years of age, by contributing to illnesses such as early childhood pneumonia, emphysema, lung cancer, bronchitis, cardiovascular disease and low birth weight. That's a life lost every 16 seconds.
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a new partnership between the United Nations Foundation and a substantial number of U.S. agencies (the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency) to create a market for safe and energy-efficient cook stoves. On Tuesday, Secretary Clinton announced an initial U.S. commitment of about $51 million over the next five years toward the effort.
The goal is to put 100 million of the clean-and-green cook stoves, which will cost as little as $25 each, in households worldwide by 2020. That in turn will limit greenhouse gas emissions and drains on natural resources used to burn wood and solid fuel.
For those in the developing world worried that their meals won't have that home-cooked taste with the new stove, Clinton promised the campaign will be involve women-owned businesses and will rely on testing and research to ensure they fit "seamlessly" into family cooking traditions. They can also be used in refugee camps and for disaster relief and in aid programs, where any food at all is a luxury.
"Hearths -- whatever they look like -- are where we gather, where we tell stories and pass down our values," Clinton said. "They bind families together. And the benefits from cleaner and safer homes will ripple out, with healthier families, stronger communities, and more stable societies. "
Clinton has talked often about empowering people in the developing world to lift themselves out of poverty. In Afghanistan she touted the power of the pomegranate as an agricultural export; in Pakistan it was the mango.
Just by upgrading the cook stove, Clinton argued, millions of lives could be saved and improved. New stoves could be as transformative as bed nets or vaccines.
"The next time you sit down with your family to eat, take a moment to imagine the smell of the smoke, feel it in your lungs, see the soot building up on the walls," Clinton said. Then think about how a simple stove can help save millions of lives, she said.