Targeting 700 million people who use solid fuel for cooking in India, the World Health Organization conducted a meeting of 11 nations in New Delhi to target the implementation of the new guidelines for indoor air quality.
According to WHO, over 60% of homes in Southeast Asia still use solid fuels for cooking. Women and children pay the heaviest price, as they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from cooking stoves. Half the deaths due to pneumonia in children aged less than five years can be attributed to household air pollution making it a leading risk factor for childhood deaths.
Exposure to air pollutants, especially fine particulate matter, is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases in adults, causing ailments including ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease and lung cancer, making air pollution the main avoidable environmental cause of disease and premature death globally.
In 2012, around 7 million people died as a result of air pollution exposure, accounting for one in eight of total global deaths. An estimated 40% of the deaths from indoor air pollution and 25% of those attributed to outdoor air pollution occur in the 11 countries in southeast Asia.
NEW GUIDELINES & MULTI-SECTORAL APPROACH
A set of new guidelines was launched Nov 12 this year for indoor air quality, setting targets for reducing emissions of health-damaging pollutants from domestic cooking stoves, space heaters, and fuel-based lamps. The 11 member-nations that had a major role in forming the guidelines include India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Maldives.
Member states of southeast have shown their commitment to reduce household air pollution as part of the regional action plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases 2013-20, which promotes a move to cleaner stove technologies and fuels, such as liquefied petroleum gas, solar coolers, electricity and low-fume fuels such as methanol and ethanol.
At the meeting, it was stressed that a multisectoral approach is needed at all levels to bring about improvements. The health ministry would need to work with the ministries of environment, urban development, transport, energy and natural resources to combat the situation.