Indoor air pollution

Online Q&A
November 2014

What are the main sources of household air pollution in developing countries?

Nearly 3 billion of the world’s poorest still rely on solid fuels (wood, animal dung, charcoal, crop wastes and coal) burned in inefficient and highly polluting stoves for cooking and heating. The resulting household air pollution led to more than 4 million premature deaths among children and adults in 2012.

What are the health consequences?

Of the 4.3 million people who die annually from exposure to household air pollutants, most perish from stroke (34%), ischaemic heart disease (26%) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (22%). Pneumonia and lung cancer account for 12% and 6% of deaths, respectively.

Women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth, are particularly vulnerable. More than 50% of pneumonia deaths among children under 5 are linked to household air pollution.

Are there other consequences for development, beyond human health?

Polluting household fuels also endanger the health of the planet. Emissions of black carbon and methane from low-efficiency stoves contribute to outdoor air pollution and increase the rate of climate change.

In many regions, fuel gathering for traditional stoves consumes considerable time for women and children, limiting other productive activities—such as generating income—and taking children away from school. Safe and efficient cooking stoves would reduce the workload for women and children and decrease the demand on scarce natural resources (eg. forests).


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