Pollution Has Made Its Way Into Your Homes, Should Be Tackled Now

Indoor air pollution is a much bigger killer than outdoor air pollution, which politicians in Delhi have focused on.

2 min read
Fumes from cooking fires trigger millions of deaths annually. (Photo: iStock)

Most days a heavy smog hangs over Delhi. It’s hard to make out distant buildings through the haze and the effect it has on the lungs is palpable.

In an attempt to tackle the monster that is Delhi’s pollution and improve the health of millions of residents, politicians devised schemes like Odd-Even, hoping to reduce pollution from car fumes.

But as reports the Centre for Science and Environment and TERI come out, it’s becoming evident that Odd-Even didn’t do much to bring down toxins in the air that make it hard to breathe.

Part of the problem is there are worse pollutants out there than car fumes. And some of them are killing us from within our own homes.

Also Read: Dear Mr Kejriwal, Why Did You Think Odd-Even Would Work?

Indoor air pollution is worse than outdoor air pollution – and it comes from things we need everyday. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>/Rahul Gupta)
Indoor air pollution is worse than outdoor air pollution – and it comes from things we need everyday. (Photo: The Quint/Rahul Gupta)

Cooking fires are among the leading causes of death worldwide. And since women are often the ones doing the cooking, they get the brunt of the smoke in their lungs.

Small children who stay with their mothers are also at risk. About 50 percent of Pneumonia deaths before the age of five are linked to indoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organisation.

Indoor air pollution is also tied to many other diseases, the organisation has found.

Millions of deaths every year are associated with indoor air pollution. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>/Rahul Gupta)
Millions of deaths every year are associated with indoor air pollution. (Photo: The Quint/Rahul Gupta)

There are ways to reduce pollution in the household. Accessibility to better cooking stoves that release less smoke would make a difference for millions of people, according to the World Bank.

But that’s easier said than done. More efficient cooking systems can be too expensive for poorer communities and there aren’t always programmes to educate people about the benefits of cleaner cooking in rural areas.

Still, the benefits of cleaner cooking aren’t just within households. Better cooking stoves could also bring down outdoor air pollution in cities like Delhi.

A study from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur found that biomass burning (which includes fire for cooking and heating), contributes to 26 percent of outdoor air pollution in Delhi in winter. In summer, biomass contributes to 12 percent of pollution for particles like PM2.5, which is particularly damaging to human health.

Comparatively, vehicles contribute to 25 percent of PM2.5 emissions in winter, and 9 percent in summer.

Tackling air pollution at the household level could help lift the smog.

(This story was first published on 3 June 2015. It is being republished from The Quint’s archives on the occasion of World Environment Day.)

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