‘World’s Largest Environmental Health Risk’

HEALTH

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)

Use our resources to learn more about indoor air pollution.

Now, that's a tortilla. Actually, not even close. It's a Turkish bread called yufka. Innocuous indoor cooking stoves like this one are common throughout the developing world . . . and one of the leading causes of pollution-related deaths. Photograph by James L. Stanfield, National Geographic

Now, that’s a tortilla. Actually, not even close. It’s a Turkish bread called yufka. Innocuous indoor cooking stoves like this one are common throughout the developing world . . . and one of the leading causes of pollution-related deaths.
Photograph by James L. Stanfield, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

 

  • 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!
Photograph by Rebecca Hale, National Geographic

Photograph by Rebecca Hale, National Geographic

2 responses to “‘World’s Largest Environmental Health Risk’

  1. Using solar cookers like those above are great way to reduce indoor air pollution in countries that receive a lot of sun. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of millions of people living in climates (such as tropical rain forests) where these types of Cookers aren’t very practical as you need to be able to use in everyday not just when the sun shines.

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