2.3 Billion People Worldwide Exposed To Household Air Pollution — WHO - Eastern Mirror
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2.3 billion people worldwide exposed to household air pollution — WHO

By Thejoto Nienu Updated: Jan 05, 2024 7:51 pm
Air Pollution
A kitchen hearth in Kohima village. (EM Images)

KOHIMA — A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shed light on the global impact of household air pollution, revealing that approximately 2.3 billion people, constituting one-third of the world’s population, still rely on open fires and inefficient stoves fueled by kerosene, biomass, and coal.

The report underscored that this widespread practice produces harmful pollutants, leading to severe health consequences worldwide, especially among the populace who continue to use solid fuels like wood, crop waste, charcoal, coal, dung, and kerosene in open fires and inefficient stoves.

The WHO report revealed that the majority of these individuals are impoverished and reside in low- and middle-income countries, emphasising a significant disparity in access to cleaner cooking alternatives between urban and rural areas. In 2021, only 14% of people in urban areas used polluting fuels and technologies, compared to 49% of the global rural population, it said.

These findings hold particular relevance for Nagaland, where people in various parts of the state rely on fireplaces for cooking and open fires for warmth during the winter and festive seasons.

As per the report, household air pollution is generated by the use of inefficient and polluting fuels and technologies in and around the home that contains a range of health-damaging pollutants, including small particles that penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream. In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can have levels of fine particles 100 times higher than acceptable. Exposure is particularly high among women and children who spend the most time near the domestic hearth, it stated.

The report indicated that household air pollution was responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths in 2020, including over 237,000 deaths of children under the age of 5. The combined effects of ambient and household air pollution contribute to 6.7 million premature deaths annually.

Exposure to household air pollution is linked to non-communicable diseases such as stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. The report added that women and children, primarily responsible for household chores like cooking and collecting firewood, bear the greatest health burden from the use of polluting fuels and technologies in homes.

In order to provide a solution to the above consequences, WHO emphasised the urgent need to expand the use of clean fuels and technologies, including solar, electricity, biogas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas, alcohol fuels, and biomass stoves meeting emission targets outlined in WHO guidelines.

The impacts on health-related issues are manifold, as pointed out that in 2019, household air pollution accounted for the loss of an estimated 86 million healthy life years, with women in low- and middle-income countries bearing the largest burden.

Household air pollution is linked to low birth weight, tuberculosis, cataracts, nasopharyngeal and laryngeal cancers, and musculoskeletal injuries besides having impacts on development and climate change as inefficient stove combustion contributes to black carbon (sooty particles) and methane emissions, acting as powerful short-lived climate pollutants, it said.

In regard to this, WHO called for significant policy changes to increase access to clean fuels and technologies by 2030, addressing health inequities, achieving Sustainable Development Goals, and mitigating climate change. WHO also provides technical support to countries and regions, developing guidelines for indoor air quality and household fuel combustion, and maintaining a global household energy database to monitor progress.

Further, WHO urged nations to prioritise the adoption of clean household energy solutions, emphasising that concerted efforts are essential to save lives, promote health equity and combat climate change.

By Thejoto Nienu Updated: Jan 05, 2024 7:51:32 pm
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