Thursday, November 27, 2014

WHO Recommends Guidelines for Indoor Air Pollution

WHO recommendations, released today, highlight the dangers of burning fuels like unprocessed coal and kerosene in the home, and set targets for reducing emissions of health-damaging pollutants from domestic cookstoves, space heaters and fuel-based lamps.

Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

The new "WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: household fuel combustion" stress the need to improve access to cleaner home energy sources such as liquefied petroleum gas, biogas, natural gas and ethanol, or electricity, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. These new guidelines come after WHO findings earlier this year revealed that more than 7 million deaths – one in eight of total global deaths – are due to indoor or outdoor air pollution exposure. According to the estimates, some 4.3 million people worldwide die every year from household air pollution emitted by rudimentary biomass and coal cookstoves.

The guidelines include emissions targets for different kinds of domestic appliances, for both carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter. The targets are the result of years of review of the health impacts of household air pollution emissions and careful examination of the levels by which emissions would have to be reduced in order to meet WHO guidelines for air quality.

National Biomass Cookstoves Program

The new guidelines recommend halting the use of unprocessed coal as a household fuel. Coal contains toxic elements such as arsenic, lead and mercury. The incomplete combustion of coal in inefficient stoves and space heaters can lead to severe illness and premature death. The use of kerosene as a household fuel is also discouraged amid concerns around its adverse impact on air quality and safety. Kerosene is also associated with burns, fires and poisoning.

In homes with open-burning and unvented coal or biomass stoves, emissions of particulate matter and other pollutants can be 100 times higher than WHO-recommended levels. Such pollutants are carcinogenic and cause heart and lung disease through impairing immune response, reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, causing systemic inflammation and ischemia, among other physiological disturbances.

In order to meet the new targets, there needs to be rapid scale-up in access to cleaner and more modern cooking and heating appliances, as well as lamps, in developing country homes, says Dr Carlos Dora, WHO Coordinator for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

No comments: