Health Impact

Death from lower respiratory infections is dramatically higher in low income countries where exposure to indoor air pollution is greatest.

While many countries have reduced their population’s reliance on solid fuels, low income countries with limited economic growth and/or Sub-Saharan African countries have seen large increases between 2000 and 2010 of 45% and 31% in their populations’ exposures, respectively.

Targeted policies to transition populations to cleaner, modern fuels that take into account specific country contexts are needed to avoid leaving behind these populations.

The health burden from indoor air pollution can also be expressed in Disability Adjusted Life Years  (DALYs). The WHO (2009) reports that 41 million DALYs were lost due to indoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution becomes relatively more important when expressed in DALYs because the DALYs include the fact that young children are at great risk from the health risks of indoor air pollution. DALYs also capture disabled years. In addition to impacts on mortality, indoor air pollution may have long lasting effects on general health and well-being through stifled lung development (Almond 2006).

The health consequences of solid fuel use have been well documented. Undoor smoke from solid fuels is the 10th leading cause of avoidable deaths worldwide. It is the second most important environmental cause of disease after contaminated waterborne diseases (WHO, 2012).

Lower respiratory infections are the leading cause of death in low  income countries causing 11% of all deaths (WHO 2012 and Wardlaw 2006). Moreover, in low income countries, more than half of lower respiratory infection deaths occur among children under the age of five. Death from lower respiratory infections is dramatically higher in low income countries where exposure to indoor air pollution is greatest. Multiple risk factors such as outdoor air pollution, smoking and malnutrition are associated with these three diseases but indoor air pollution is thought to cause about one-third of Acute Respiratory Infection cases.

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