Indoor air pollution

Interventions to reduce indoor air pollution

A wide range of interventions are available to reduce indoor air pollution and associated health effects. Interventions can be classified according to the level at which they are effective: a) interventions on the source of pollution, b) interventions to the living environment, and c) interventions to user behaviour.

Interventions on the source of pollution

Alternative fuels

The largest reductions in indoor air pollution can be achieved by switching from solid fuels (biomass, coal) to cleaner and more efficient fuels and energy technologies such as:

  • liquid petroleum gas (LPG)
  • biogas
  • producer gas
  • electricity
  • solar power

Improved stoves

In poor, rural communities where access to alternative fuels is very limited and biomass remains the most practical fuel, pollution levels can be lowered significantly by using improved stoves. These stoves, provided they are adequately designed, installed and maintained, are effective in reducing smoke because of better combustion, lower emission levels and potentially also shorter cooking times.

Interventions to the living environment

Improved ventilation of the cooking and living area can contribute significantly to reducing exposure to smoke. There are a number of ways to achieve better ventilation of the living environment including:

  • chimneys
  • smoke hoods (with flues)
  • eaves spaces
  • enlarged and repositioned windows (cooking window)

Interventions to user behaviour

Changes in user behaviour can also play a role in reducing pollution and exposure levels. For example, drying fuel wood before use improves combustion and decreases smoke production. Keeping young children away from smoke reduces exposure of this most vulnerable age group to health-damaging pollutants.

Such changes in user behaviour are unlikely to bring about reductions as large as those expected from a fuel switch or the installation of a hood or chimney. However, they should be seen as important supporting measures for other interventions.

WHO activities

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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