Indoor air pollution

Evaluation of the costs and benefits of household energy and health interventions at global and regional levels

Worldwide, more than 3 billion people cook with wood, dung, coal and other solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves. The resulting indoor air pollution is responsible for more than 1.5 million deaths due to respiratory diseases annually – mostly of young children and their mothers. Effective solutions to reduce levels of indoor air pollution and to improve health do exist and include cleaner and more efficient fuels and improved stoves that burn solid fuels more efficiently and completely. In addition to preventing death, improving health and reducing illness-related expenditures, household energy interventions have many impacts that, at the household level, improve family livelihoods and, at the population level, stimulate development and contribute to environmental sustainability. These benefits include time savings due to less illness, a reduced need for fuel collection and shorter cooking times. Cost–benefit analysis offers a method of economic evaluation that values all benefits against all costs from a societal perspective.

The aim of the present study is to quantify the costs and benefits of selected household energy and health interventions for urban and rural populations at the global level and for 11 developing and middle-income WHO subregions. Three specific interventions (i.e. liquefied petroleum gas, ethanol, improved stove) are modelled under eight different scenarios of relevance to energy policy in the context of the Millennium Development Goals. This technical report describes the methods and data sources that form the basis for the present cost-benefit analysis and presents the results for eight intervention scenarios. The study concludes that the health and productivity gains far outweigh the overall cost of interventions. Under the assumptions of the model, improved stoves lead to the greatest overall economic benefits. LPG and biofuel interventions also generate large economic benefits in relation to the net intervention costs. Demonstrating the economic benefits of investments in improving access to cleaner and more efficient household energy should contribute both to sound decision-making for development and to overcoming the constraints in the implementation of household energy interventions.

This technical publication is intended for professionals working on household energy, environment and health.

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