WHO updates fact sheet on household air pollution and health (3 February 2016)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its fact sheet on household (indoor) air pollution and health.

Key Messages:

Around 3 billion people still cook and heat their homes using solid fuels (i.e. wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung) in open fires and leaky stoves.

The use of such inefficient fuels and technologies results in the generation of a range of health-damaging pollutants, including small soot particles that penetrate deep into the lungs. Moreover, they produce high levels of household air pollution.

In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for fine particles.

Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.

Health impacts of household air pollution:

4.3 million people a year die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution caused by the inefficient use of solid fuels for cooking (2012 data). Of these:

  • 12% deaths are due to pneumonia (exposure to household air pollution doubles the risk for  childhood pneumonia)
  • 34% die from stroke
  • 26% die from ischaemic heart disease
  • 22% die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and
  • 6% die from lung cancer.

PneumoniaMore than 50% of premature deaths due to pneumonia among children under 5 are caused by the particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.

Stroke: Almost 25% of all premature deaths due to stroke (half of which are in women) are attributable to chronic exposure to household air pollution caused by cooking with solid fuels.

Ischaemic Heart Disease: Approximately 15% of all deaths due to ischaemic heart disease (more than 1 million premature deaths per year) are attributable to exposure to household air pollution.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary DiseaseWomen exposed to high levels of indoor smoke are more than 2 times as likely to suffer from COPD than women who use cleaner fuels. Men who smoke have a higher risk of COPD. Among such men, exposure to indoor smoke increases their risk by 1.9 times- nearly doubles that risk.

Lung CancerAbout 17% of premature lung cancer deaths in adults each year are attributable to exposure to carcinogens from household air pollution caused by cooking with solid fuels like wood, charcoal or coal. The risk for women is higher, due to their role in food preparation.

Other health impacts and risks:

Household air pollution is also linked with:

  • low birth weight,
  • tuberculosis,
  • cataract,
  • nasopharyngeal and laryngeal cancers.

Useful Links:

Link to the updated fact sheet:


Link to WHO’s 2014 press release ‘7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution’:


Link to Question and Answer page on Indoor Air Pollution:


Link to Global Health Observatory (GHO) data on Household (Indoor) Air Pollution:



1 thought on “WHO updates fact sheet on household air pollution and health (3 February 2016)

  1. Pingback: Easy Breathing | Find Me A Cure

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