The World Heath Organization calls indoor air pollution the “world’s largest environmental health risk.” More than 4 million deaths are attributed to fuel burned indoors for cooking—a common practice in the developing world. (National Geographic News)
- The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that indoor air pollution is responsible for about 4.3 million deaths every year. Indoor air pollution is largely produced by stoves burning fuels such as wood, coal, kerosene, and organic compounds such as cow dung. Read our short encyclopedic entry on air pollution, focusing on “Effects on Humans.” What are other long-term and short-term impacts of indoor air pollution? Why do these impacts matter to the developing world?
- Short-term effects
- respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, asthma, and bronchitis
- nausea and fatigue
- Long-term effects
- heart disease
- serious respiratory disease such as emphysema
- organ damage
- birth defects
- immune-system deficiencies
- WHO lists additional impacts associated with exposure to what it calls “household air pollution:” cataracts, tuberculosis, miscarriage.
- Short-term and long-term effects of indoor air pollution are especially devastating to the developing world. Illnesses among young people (usually the bulk of the work force) can slow or even prevent economic and social mobility, and limit a community’s growth.
- Short-term effects
- The Nat Geo News article outlines the geographic distribution of all air-pollution fatalities. “The western Pacific, Southeast Asian, and African regions accounted for almost six million premature deaths.” Why do you think these regions are particularly vulnerable to indoor air pollution? Can you think of another vulnerable region?
- The affected regions are where many of the world’s developing countries are located.
- WHO categorizes geographic regions, not individual countries. Within the Americas, developing countries in Central and South America probably have higher instances of household air pollution than wealthy, industrialized nations such as the U.S. and Canada.
- There are available remedies to the crisis of indoor air pollution. Read our short section on solar cookers here, then watch the video below. What are the benefits of solar cookers? Why are solar cookers recommended for many developing regions?
- “Solar cookers provide many advantages over wood-burning stoves: They are not a fire hazard, do not produce smoke, do not require fuel, and reduce habitat loss in forests where trees would be harvested for fuel. Solar cookers also allow villagers to pursue time for education, business, health, or family during time that was previously used for gathering firewood.”
- Solar cookers are relatively inexpensive to construct and maintain, and rely on the solar energy, a natural resource many developing regions have in abundance.
- Build your own solar cooker! All you need is the sun, cardboard boxes, scissors, a ruler, aluminum foil, newspaper, black spray paint, glue, a cooking skewer, and a cooking bag. Follow these easy instructions. Solar cookers are economically and energy-efficient for the developing world, but they also cook up polenta outside NG headquarters!