Indoor air pollution

Health and Social Impacts of Household Energy

photo of doctor with child

Health Impacts

Cooking and heating with solid fuels (wood, charcoal, crop waste, dung, and coal) produces high levels of smoke in and around the home that contains a variety of health-damaging pollutants.

There is strong evidence that exposure to household air pollution can lead to a wide range of child and adult disease outcomes, including acute and chronic respiratory conditions (e.g. pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), lung cancer, ischemic heart disease, stroke and cataract. There is also supporting evidence suggesting exposure to household air pollution is linked with adverse pregnancy outcomes, tuberculosis, upper aero-digestive tract, cervical and other cancers.

Social and Environmental Impacts

The inefficient use of energy by households has impacts beyond health. The inefficient use of solid fuels for cooking and heating is a major source of short-lived climate pollutants (e.g. black carbon) and the unsustainable harvesting of fuelwood contributes to local forest degradation. Fuel collection places a burden on the household, especially women and children and the lack of reliable electricity can limit household activities to daylight hours.

Millenium Development Goals

In September 2000, head of states met to set global development goals. Many of the Millenium Development Goals relate to household energy. Reducing solid fuel use is associated with reducing poverty, respiratory illness and environment degredation.

Burning Opportunity:
Clean Household Energy for Health, Sustainable Development, and Wellbeing of Women and Children

WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: household fuel combustion

Health in the Green Economy:
household energy


Indoor Air Quality Guidelines: selected pollutants

Clean household energy for all


Burden of disease

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Information material


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Fact sheets,
press releases, presentations

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Other web sites on indoor air pollution




Partnership for Clean Indoor Air

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WHO's Programme on Indoor Air Pollution

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