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Indoor air pollution kills thousands every year

A mother and her child in cyclone-affected Patuakhali District, southern Bangladesh. Infants, young children and pregnant and lactating women are most vulnerable to malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies because their nutritional requirements are gre
(David Swanson/IRIN)

Over 46,000 people die of acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) in Bangladesh each year due to indoor air pollution (IAP), according to Andrew Trevett, acting country representative for the World Health Organization (WHO).

His findings and those of others set out at a workshop in Dhaka on 15 June revealed that 70 percent of IAP victims were children under five. Here are the other main findings:

• The risk of diseases like pneumonia, asthma, low birth weight, cardiovascular failure and tuberculosis among children doubles due to IAP.

• Cooking, heating with solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves results in high levels of IAP.

• Some 4 percent of all diseases in Bangladesh can be attributed to IAP.

• IAP from burning wood, animal dung and other solid bio fuels is a major cause of ALRI.

• Over 92 percent of households in Bangladesh use solid bio fuel for cooking purposes, releasing toxic substances like carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and high levels of harmful particulate matter.

• Lack of proper ventilation in most kitchens contributes towards the heavy concentration of particulate matter indoors.

• The level of particulate matter inside a kitchen using solid bio fuel is 30-35 times more than the World Health Organization (WHO) standard.

• Women and children are particularly vulnerable as they spend most of their time indoors.

• Low-income groups are particularly vulnerable as they can only afford solid bio fuel.

ALRI is responsible for 59 percent of all premature deaths among infants, mostly in Asia and Africa.

• In developing countries, respiratory infection caused by IAP accounts for 1.6-2 million deaths a year. Around one million of the dead are children.

• More than three billion people worldwide continue to depend on solid fuels like biomass fuels and coal for their daily energy needs (WHO).

• Ventilation could be one of the most important interventions to reduce the risk of indoor air pollution (Joseph Graziano, chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences of the Columbia University).

• Incomplete combustion of biomass emits powerful greenhouse gas pollutants including methane and carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change (Graziano).

• IAP is a leading threat to public health in South Asia, along with malnutrition and lack of safe drinking water (Graziano).

• Bringing about a change in the traditional cooking system would not be possible overnight, but is a priority (Health and Family Welfare Minister Rahul Huque).

• IAP is responsible for 2.7 percent of the global burden of disease (WHO).


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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