Indoor air pollution

Broader impacts of household energy

household energy impacts
ARI: acute respiratory infections
COPD: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Household energy and poverty

Dependence on polluting and inefficient household fuels and appliances is both a cause and a result of poverty:

Poor households often do not have the resources to obtain cleaner, more efficient fuels and appliances. Conversely, reliance on inefficient household fuels and appliances limits the time available for income generation, schooling and other opportunities for economic development, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and reliance on polluting, inefficient fuels.

For example, households reliant on traditional biomass fuels often spend many hours a day on fuel collection and thus have less time available for other essential tasks. Similarly, households with limited or no access to a clean and reliable source of lighting (e.g. electricity) can lose opportunities for educational and income-generating activities outside of daylight hours.

Gender issues

In most developing countries, it is women who carry out household tasks related to cooking and heating the home. Women are therefore particularly affected by smoke in the home as well as the time loss due to fuel collection and stove tending. However, in many homes, men appear to have more decision-making power, and household energy needs may be given lower priority than women would wish.

Environmental impacts


The reliance on wood as a household fuel can put considerable pressure on forests, particularly in areas where fuelwood is scarce and the demand for wood outweighs natural re-growth. Unsustainable wood harvesting can lead to forest degradation which may result in a consequent loss of habitat and biodiversity.

Climate change

Simple biomass and coal stoves used in most low and middle income country homes typically are inefficient. As a result, a large percentage of the energy when burning these fuels is lost as products of incomplete combustion. These products of incomplete combustion include powerful short-lived pollutants such as a black carbon and methane, which significantly contribute to climate change.

More information

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

More information


More information

Information material


More information

Fact sheets,
press releases, presentations

More information


Other web sites on indoor air pollution




Partnership for Clean Indoor Air

More information

Contact us

WHO's Programme on Indoor Air Pollution

More information