Policy ForumPUBLIC HEALTH

A Major Environmental Cause of Death

Science  14 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6053, pp. 180-181
DOI: 10.1126/science.1213088

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Summary

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists indoor air pollution (IAP) (1) from primitive household cooking fires as the leading environmental cause of death in the world, as it contributes to nearly 2.0 million deaths annually (2)—more deaths than are caused each year by malaria. Almost half of the planet lives in poverty, and those households generally use biomass (wood, crop residues, charcoal, or dung) or coal as fuel for cooking and heating. The primitive fires typically fill homes with dense smoke, blackening walls and ceilings and sickening those within.