Household (Indoor) Air Pollution and Health
- Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.
- Over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels.
- More than 50% of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.
- 3.8 million pre-mature deaths annually from non-communicable diseases including stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer are attributed to exposure to household air pollution.
Indoor air pollution and household energy
Around 3 billion people still cook and heat their homes using solid fuels (i.e. wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung) in open fires and leaky stoves. Most are poor, and live in low- and middle-income countries.
Such inefficient cooking fuels and technologies produce high levels of household air pollution with a range of health-damaging pollutants, including small soot particles that penetrate deep into the lungs. In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for small particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.
Impacts on health
4.3 million people a year die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution caused by the inefficient use of solid fuels (2012 data). Among these deaths:
- 12% are due to pneumonia
- 34% from stroke
- 26% from ischaemic heart disease
- 22% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and
- 6% from lung cancer.
Impacts on health equity, development and climate change
Without a substantial change in policy, the total number of people relying on solid fuels will remain largely unchanged by 2030 (World Bank, 2010). The use of polluting fuels also poses a major burden on sustainable development.
- Fuel gathering consumes considerable time for women and children, limiting other productive activities (e.g. income generation) and taking children away from school. In less secure environments, women and children are at risk of injury and violence during fuel gathering.
- Black carbon (sooty particles) and methane emitted by inefficient stove combustion are powerful climate change pollutants.
- The lack of access to electricity for at least 1.2 billion people (many of whom then use kerosene lamps for lighting) creates other health risks, e.g. burns, injuries and poisonings from fuel ingestion, as well as constraining other opportunities for health and development, e.g. studying or engaging in small crafts and trades, which require adequate lighting.