WHO updates fact sheet on Household air Pollution and Health (1 May 2018)

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

Background Information:

Around 3 billion people still cook using solid fuels such as

  • wood,
  • crop wastes,
  • charcoal,
  • coal and
  • dung

and kerosene in open fires and inefficient stoves. Most of these people are poor, and live in low- and middle-income countries.

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.


Key Messages:

3.8 million people a year die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution caused by the inefficient use of solid fuels and kerosene for cooking. Of these:

  • 27% are due to pneumonia
  • 27% from ischaemic heart disease
  • 20% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • 18% from stroke
  • 8% from lung cancer.


  • Children: Household air pollution doubles the risk of developing pneumonia;
    is responsible for 45% of all pneumonia deaths in children <5 years.
  • Adults: Household air pollution is responsible for 28% of all pneumonia deaths

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

  • Overall: 25% of premature deaths in adults due to COPD in low-middle income countries are attributable to household air pollution.
  • Men: Exposure to household air pollution doubles risk of developing COPD
  • Women: Exposure to household air pollution more than doubles risk of developing COPD compared to those who use cleaner fuel.


12% of premature deaths due to stroke is attributable to daily exposure to household air pollution

Ischaemic Heart Disease

About 11% of premature deaths due to Ischaemic Heart Disease are attributable to exposure to household air pollution

Lung Cancer

Among adults, about 17% of premature deaths due to lung cancer are attributable to  exposure to carcinogens from household air pollution caused by cooking with kerosene or solid fuels.

Other health impacts and risks

Small particulate matter and other pollutants in indoor smoke inflame the airways and lungs, impairing immune response and reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

There is also evidence of links between household air pollution and

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

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Reductions in air pollution-related disease burden (both for household and outdoor) will be used to monitor the progress towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goal on Health (SDG 3).

Ensuring universal access to clean fuel and technologies is a target of the Sustainable Development Goal on energy (SDG 7). Achieving this goal could prevent millions of deaths and improve the health and well-being of the billions of people relying on polluting technologies and fuels for cooking, heating and lighting.


Useful Links:

Link to the WHO fact sheet:


Link to web site of Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves:


Link to WHO Global Health Observatory (GHO) data on household air pollution:


Link to WHO Household energy database:


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