Indoor air pollution is a serious hazard for lung health

Rahul Dwivedi, CNS Correspondent, India
Pollution often refers to outdoor pollution of air, water, soil or other natural resources. But indoor air pollution within our homes is a serious health hazard for lung health which is often ignored. “Passive smoking and exposure to biomass cook stove smoke are also risk factors for developing active tuberculosis (TB) disease, especially in children. Biomass cooking fumes and tobacco smoke can also trigger asthma attacks. So the practice of using biomass fuel should be replaced by other safer and cleaner energy options” said Dr Surya Kant, Professor and Head, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, King George’s Medical University (KGMU).

Dr Quan Gan of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) said in a webcast shared at a media dialogue organized by Vote For Health campaign, CNS, Asha Parivar and NAPM: “There are two main sources of indoor air pollution: secondhand smoke and particulates from use of biomass fuels. To prevent exposure to secondhand smoke, smokers should not smoke inside or in front of non-smokers (children in this case). Particulate exposure from biomass fuels can be avoided through upgrading to more efficient fuels such as natural gas.”

Dr Surya Kant, who is the Vice President of Indian Chest Society added: “A house should be neat and clean, with proper ventilation and admit natural sun light and people should be made aware not to smoke inside homes or in presence of children. Biomass fuels especially in rural India in the form of ‘chulha’, ‘angeethi’, coal, etc are responsible for a majority of diseases and health problems in women in rural areas of India and lead to disease like chronic bronchitis, asthma and even lung cancer. They also get exposed to second hand smoke and the combination of SHS and biomass fuels make them more vulnerable to various respiratory diseases.”

Globally, 7 million people die each year because of exposure to air pollution, which means that 1 in 8 deaths occurring worldwide are due to breathing dirty air. 4.3 million of these deaths are linked to household/ indoor air pollution caused by use of solid fuels for cooking and heating; smoking cigarettes/ bidis and hookah, said Rahul Dwivedi of Vote For Health campaign.

Indoor air pollution can lead to pneumonia; stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, TB, and cataract. Indoor air pollution is also the 2nd leading cause of death in women worldwide through respiratory infection and COPD after ischaemic heart disease.

According to the 2011 Census, an estimated 142 million, or almost 85% of total rural households in India are dependent on biomass fuel for cooking. Exposure to household air pollution doubles the risk for childhood pneumonia accounting for more than 50% of premature deaths among children under 5 years old from pneumonia.

Dr Rishi Sethi, Associate Professor, Department of Cardiology, KGMU said: “14 lakh or 25% of all premature deaths due to stroke (of which half are in women) and more than 10 lakh or nearly 15% of all premature deaths due to ischaemic heart disease are due to exposure to household air pollution.” Over 33% of premature deaths from COPD in adults in low and middle income countries, and nearly 17% of annual premature lung cancer deaths in adults are also due to air pollution caused by cooking with solid fuels as well as from active smoking and/or second hand tobacco smoke.

Rahul Dwivedi, Citizen  News Service - CNS 
30 August 2014