Indoor air pollution

Indoor air pollution from solid fuels and risk of low birth weight and stillbirth

Nearly half of the world’s population, some 3 billion people, still rely on solid fuels (wood, animal dung, crop residues, coal) for their everyday household energy needs. Much of this fuel is burned in open fires and simple stoves with poor ventilation, leading to very high levels of smoke exposure – particularly for women and young children. The focus of this report (and the ISEE 2005 symposium on which it is based) is on the links between solid fuel use, the associated pollution, and birth weight, stillbirth and mortality.

This review has found consistent impacts of solid fuel smoke exposure on both low birth weight and stillbirth. Although the body of evidence is still relatively small, these findings are consistent with studies on exposure to outdoor air pollution and environmental tobacco smoke. The ISEE symposium concluded that a modest number of additional, high quality studies of adverse pregnancy outcomes are required, paying particular attention to assessment of exposure and gestational age. If the risk estimates are confirmed by further studies, since high proportions of pregnant women are exposed to solid fuel smoke in developing countries, and the prevalence of both low birth weight and stillbirth is high, the population attributable risk associated with this exposure is likely to be substan­tial

Download the full document