Indoor air pollution

Fuel for life: household energy and health

Energy is essential to meet our most basic needs: cooking, boiling water, lighting and heating. It is also a prerequisite for good health – a reality that has been largely ignored by the world community.

Fuel for life: household energy and health gives an overview of the health impacts of indoor air pollution from solid fuel use and describes solutions to promote health and development in the context of the household energy challenge. Innovative policy approaches and a rigorous acceleration of investments is needed now to save lives and enable development.

The publication concludes with the following key points:

  • Cooking with wood, dung, coal and other solid fuels is a major risk factor for pneumonia among children and chronic respiratory disease among adults, with more than two thirds of these deaths occurring in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Every year, the killer in the kitchen is responsible for 1.5 million deaths.
  • Progress in access to modern cooking fuels since 1990 has been negligible. To halve, by 2015, the number of people without access to such fuels, 485 000 people will need to gain access to modern energy services every day for the next 10 years.
  • Health and productivity gains can more than pay for lifting people out of energy poverty. For example, investing US$ 13 billion per year to halve, by 2015, the number of people worldwide cooking with solid fuels by supplying them with liquefied petroleum gas shows a payback of US$ 91 billion per year.
  • Taking household energy solutions to scale will overcome a major barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Improved household energy practices promote education, empower women, save the lives of children and their mothers and benefit our forests and our climate.
  • Evaluating the impacts of household energy projects and programmes will shed light on how different technical solutions could be fine-tuned to maximize their health, social and environmental benefits. Learning from their experience will provide a recipe for putting into action successful, large-scale programmes.

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Publishing and ordering information

© World Health Organization 2006
ISBN 92 4 156316 8
CHF 15.00/US$ 13.50
In developing countries: CHF 10.50/US$ 9.45
Order no. 11500665
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