New Delhi, Dec 11:
Fifty percent of deaths due to pneumonia in children aged less than five years can be attributed to household air pollution, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said here Thursday.
“We must act to protect people from air pollution. The poor, living near busy roads or industrial sites, are disproportionately affected by air pollution. Women and children pay the heaviest price, as they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from cooking stoves,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, addressing a workshop on air quality and human health.
The official also said that over 60 percent of homes in south-east Asia region still use solid fuel for cooking. In India, this amounts to some 700 million people.
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.
According to WHO, around 40 percent of the deaths from indoor air pollution and 25 percent due to outdoor air pollution occur in these eleven countries of the South East Asia.
“Exposure to air pollutants, especially fine particulate matter, is a leading risk factor for non-communicable disease in adults, causing ischemic heart disease, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease and lung cancer,” Khetrapal Singh said.
She said a multi-sector approach is needed at all levels to bring about improvements.
“At the national level this is particularly important, so that ministries of health are actively engaged with the ministries of environment, urban development, transport, energy and natural resources,” Khetrapal Singh said.
“Nations need to develop national databases on household fuel use and emissions and design programmes aimed at encouraging the use of improved cooking stoves, fuels and good cooking practices.”
“I would like to underscore WHO’s strong commitment to a ‘whole of society’ approach to improve air pollution. This would involve governments, media, civil society, non-governmental organisations, academia, partners, development agencies and the UN,” said Khetrapal Singh. (IANS)