April 30th, 2007 06:23 EST
Indoor Air Pollution Takes Heavy Toll on Health
Indoor air pollution from solid fuels used for cooking and heating are to blame for almost 5 per cent of deaths and disease, affecting mostly women and children, in 21 of the most heavily impacted countries, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today.
Worldwide, reliance on solid fuels – including coal and biomass, or wood, dung and crop residues – is one of the 10 biggest threats to public health.
Over 3 billion people around the world depend on these fuels, and exposure to indoor air pollution from them has been linked to many diseases, particularly pneumonia among children and chronic respiratory diseases among adults.
In the first-ever country-by-country estimates of the heavy toll solid fuel use takes on health, 21 countries – most of which are in Africa – were found to be the most affected.
“Solutions are available, and it is our international responsibility to promote the health and well-being of those affected, who are mostly women and children,” said Susanne Weber-Mosdorf, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments. “The prevention potential is enormous.”
Approximately 1.2 billion deaths a year in 11 countries – Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tanzania – due to indoor air pollution.
Replacing solid fuels with cleaner and more efficient ones, such as biogas, liquefied petroleum gas and kerosene, could largely eliminate the health risk and prevent 1.5 billions deaths yearly around the world.
In the short term, promoting more fuel-efficient and cleaner technologies, such as improved cooking stoves, could cut indoor pollution back considerably.
In issuing the findings, WHO said governments should be able to use the estimates to set priorities in creating preventive measures and to assess their impact over time.