According to a report recently released by the WHO (World Health Organization), household air pollution is the most dire environmental health risk globally. Women and girls are projected to bear the highest risk of exposure and health issues not only from general exposure, but additionally due to tasks where they have to gather dangerous fuels for cooking, lighting and heating.  Survey data from 13 countries show girls spend about 18+ hours’ weekly collecting fuel or water in sub-Saharan homes while boys only spend 15 hours on average. More than 52% of the world’s population and generally among the poorest, cook and heat with solid fuels as reported by WHO.

Although there have been innumerable efforts over the last decade to reduce sources that contribute to domestic air pollution, in South-East Asia an average of  thirty percent of people use kerosene lights and across 25 countries surveyed almost half of all African households still use kerosene lamps. In 2012, 1 in 4 global deaths or 12.6 Billion people died due to working or living in an unhealthy environment according to estimate by WHO. “There’s an urgent need for investment in strategies to reduce environmental risks in our cities, homes and workplaces”, said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “Such investments can significantly reduce the rising worldwide burden of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, injuries, and cancers, and lead to immediate savings in healthcare costs.”

Biomass smoke contains thousands of health-damaging substances. These pollutants affect the lungs and contribute to multiple illnesses including acute lower respiratory disease and heart conditions. There are ways to reduce exposure to indoor air pollution such as switching from solid fuels (biomass, coal) to cleaner and less damaging fuels and energy technologies such as solar power or liquid petroleum gas (LPG). In areas where access to alternative fuel is less likely like rural areas; changing to a stove with an improved designed can reduce smoke, shorten cooking time and lower emission levels. Access to online resources for support on Indoor Air Pollution are located in Section 9 of the full WHO report which will be released at the end of March. Additionally academic/research institutions and development agencies that support this issue are located in Section 10. It takes a village they say, and in this case it will take the entire world paying attention, contributing resources and coming together to put an end to exposure to indoor air pollution.

To read the initial WHO report released now see report.

Breathe easy,

HOC Contributor