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Water Engineering and Development Centre

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Indoor air pollution, cooking stoves and health

Author(s): Biran, Adam  |  Hunt, Caroline

Publisher: WEDC
Place of publication: Loughborough University, UK
Year: 2003

Series: WELL Fact Sheet
Collection(s): WELL


Up to half of the world's households use biomass fuels as a source of energy for cooking and heating. Biomass fuels are materials derived from plants and animals which are burnt. Their use is much more prevalent in rural areas.

When burnt on simple stoves, they often do not combust completely and the result is a high level of emissions (including particulates) which can cause high levels of indoor air pollution when combined with poorly ventilated conditions.

This indoor air pollution can have a severe impact on health. The respiratory and immune systems can be damaged by the particulates from smoke. This in turn makes those affected more susceptible to illness. The biggest health impact known is on children in the form of acute respiratory infections. At least 1.8 million deaths (mainly child deaths from pneumonia) per year are attributed to biomass fuel use in the home.

Potential interventions to reduce indoor air pollution focus on reducing or removing smoke and changing behaviour.

Although these interventions have been introduced relatively recently, it is clear that new stove designs and/or fuel types need to be locally acceptable and affordable to succeed.

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