Indoor Pollution

by Kerrin Gallagher on February 20, 2014

When a person thinks about air pollution, images such as the smog of Los Angeles come to mind. But, what about the rural areas of the world, such as Central America? They do not have this blatant pollution as seen in urban, developed areas, but it is a major issue in many countries. In developing countries, sources of energy and heat often come from solid sources, or biomasses, such as coal and wood. In fact, 50% of households use biomasses as their source of energy. This is mainly used for cooking on elementary stoves inside the home, but these stoves lack the proper ventilation to release pollutants from the house, and instead trap them. This means that the air in the house contains pollutants and carbon monoxide, which the family breathes in daily.

Obviously, this is not healthy for those in the home. Classically in developing countries, the houses are very small, with two or three rooms. This means that the smoke from the stove will indeed affect the whole household, children or adults. WHO and other sources have found evidence that in children, the smoke causes acute lower respiratory infections. Not only is that alarming for the condition in the first place, but it should also be noted that acute respiratory infections are the leading cause of death in developing countries. Adults also suffer the consequences of indoor air pollution, which is shown to be linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Furthermore, there are plenty more health issues that use of biomasses can be linked to, including “low birth weight, increased infant and perinatal mortality, pulmonary tuberculosis, nasopharyngeal and laryngeal cancer, cataract, and, specifically in respect of the use of coal, with lung cancer.” (Bruce)

Although there are already these links, more research needs to be done. Many of these are observational studies, so there needs to be more controlled experiments behind it. For example, Berkley is teaming up with WHO and other universities to complete a randomized trial in Guatemala that will use experimental design to implement new stoves in some households and compare them to those without the stoves to see if there is any pattern in respiratory diseases. This study will hopefully bring to light more issues of indoor air pollution.

From what can be seen in research so far, many diseases linked to indoor air pollution are preventable; therefore, it is a public health issue. For example, if there was an initiative to make stoves with ventilation through the roof and also making the stove fully effective in burning the biomasses, many illnesses could be prevented. Education could also be beneficial, by explaining to families what the risks are of what they doing, because they are simply unenlightened of what the threats are of their practices. Since we have the knowledge to help prevent it, this public health issue could be resolved. By simply spreading the word, respiratory issues from indoor air pollution could be prevented.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Bruce, N., Perez-Padilla, R., & Albalak, R. (2000). Indoor air pollution in developing countries: a major environmental and public health challenge. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 78(9), 1078–1092.

Bruce, N., Perez-Padilla, R., & Albalak, R. (2000). Indoor air pollution in developing countries: a major environmental and public health challenge. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 78(9), 1078–1092. doi:10.1590/S0042-96862000000900004

Smith, K. R., Samet, J. M., Romieu, I., & Bruce, N. (2000). Indoor air pollution in developing countries and acute lower respiratory infections in children. Thorax, 55(6), 518–532. doi:10.1136/thorax.55.6.518

WHO | Indoor air pollution. (n.d.). WHO. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://www.who.int/indoorair/en/

WHO | Randomized controlled trial in Guatemala. (n.d.). WHO. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://www.who.int/indoorair/interventions/guatemala/en/


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