Indoor Air Pollution Caused by Cookstoves poses Health Risks

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 4 million premature deaths (predominantly caused by respiratory and cardiovascular diseases) each year attributed to household air pollution created by using wood, coal and other solid fuels for cooking and heating homes.

A novel multi-country trial is being carried out by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with partial support through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle the global health problem. The multimillion-dollar study will determine if using widely available, clean, alternative cooking fuel significantly reduces deaths and illnesses. The 5-year study is part of a broader international effort to research chronic lung diseases which are coordinated by the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD).

The NIH Director Francis S. Collins commented on the matter:

“Indoor air pollution caused by cookstoves is one of the top health risks in developing countries, causing deaths from low birth weight among babies, pneumonia in young children, and heart and lung problems in adults. By working with our global partners on alternative fuel solutions, we have an opportunity to reduce that risk significantly for millions of people.”

According to the WHO, there are approximately 3 billion people worldwide who are reliant on using solid fuels for both cooking and heating. The indoor pollution generated can cause a range of diseases such as pneumonia, heart disease, cancer and chronic lung disease.

The study which is led by Emory University in Atlanta plans to recruit 800 pregnant women at a number of trial sites and will randomly assign half to receive liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) stoves and a supply of gas. The trial will run until the child is 2 years old, a number of medical measurements will be then taken i.e. did the mother suffer from hypertension during pregnancy, the incidence of pneumonia and growth and development of the infants. Addition to this, several hundred older women will be assigned to each site and monitored to assess cardiopulmonary, metabolic and cancer outcomes. Biomarker analysis of blood and urine samples will also be carried out.

This cutting-edge study will hopefully provide an essential insight into the effects of air pollution produced by cookstoves reliant on LPG on health. The trial will also provide scientific evidence of potential alternatives to using solid fuels which may subsequently reduce the number of health issues related to indoor air pollution.

Improved Air Quality Correlated with Controlling Children’s Asthma

Asthma currently affects 1.1 million children in the UK, that’s 1 in 11 children receiving treatment.

Asthma is characterized by coughing, breathing difficulties, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing. It has been previously reported that children with asthma should not be exposed to indoor air that’s contaminated with allergens and pollutants to reduce the risk of asthma attacks. A clinical study carried out by the American Academy of Paediatrics suggests that breathing clean air may be as effective as medications to control the disease. The report also highlights that children are more sensitive to both pollutants and allergens due to a number of biological factors, such as their lungs, brains and immune systems are still at developmental stages and their respiratory tracts are more permeable. Asthma triggers such as dust mites, mould, furry pets, sources of indoor air pollution (e.g. tobacco smoke, gas from cookers and heaters and open fires) and household chemicals such as air fresheners should all be controlled to help reduce asthma attacks and the need for medication.

For further information regarding how to cut down allergens and pollutants in your home, visit: http://www.webmd.boots.com/asthma/news/20161101/air-quality-helps-kids-asthma

 

UNICEF Report: Indoor Air Pollution is Linked with a Range of Respiratory Diseases in Children

In recent years, a vast number of studies have been carried out to explore the detrimental effects of air pollution on health and wellbeing. In a UNICEF report, it was reported that almost one in seven of the world’s children, 300 million, live in areas with high toxic levels of air pollution.

A recent quote from UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake regarding the issues with air pollution suggests an urgency, demanding action to be taken place to combat this global issue.

“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year – and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day. Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs – they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures. No society can afford to ignore air pollution.”

The UNICEF report also highlights the negative implications of indoor air pollution on children; a range of respiratory diseases, as well as pneumonia, are linked with indoor air pollution. Children are more susceptible than adults to indoor air pollution, this is due to a number of biological factors, such as their lungs, brains and immune systems are still at developmental stages and their respiratory tracts are more permeable.

UNICEF is asking world leaders attending the upcoming COP 22 (Marrakesh, Morocco) to take four fundamental steps in their countries to protect children from both indoor and outdoor air pollution.

The Big Four

  • Reduce Air Pollution
  • Increase Children’s Healthcare
  • Minimise Children’s Exposure
  • Monitor Air Pollution

To achieve lower levels of air pollution UNICEF are taking drastic steps to help protect children from a range of life-threatening illnesses on international scale. Lake highlighted the significance of this global problem:

“We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air. Both are central to our future”.

Polluted home air may impede child development

Leading UK indoor air quality expert Professor Hazim Awbi is warning that children’s development could be hindered by poor indoor air quality at home, as well as at school, as a recent study reveals the overwhelmingly negative impact that poor air quality can have on the brain’s function.

Researchers at Harvard University have shown that in buildings specially designed to have low levels of pollutants, occupants have a cognitive function score that is 61% higher than „conventional conditions‟ and in buildings where effective ventilation has been installed, cognitive function is 101% improved. The study builds on research conducted in the UK showing children’s cognitive ability at school, from attention and concentration to memory and recognition, was significantly diminished in classrooms where pollutants had built up due to a lack of effective ventilation.

People in the UK spend around 90% of their time indoors with 47% of us spending over 16 hours a day at home, leading Professor Awbi to warn that children in airtight homes are likely to be at risk of suffering poor cognitive function.

“We know that young children are one of the groups who spend a large amount of time at home, especially during their early, formative years. Where there is a lack of ventilation and where pollutants are allowed to build up, children‟s brain function is affected. Homes are becoming ever more airtight, and if steps are not taken by both homeowners and the government, there could be profound consequences on children‟s learning and development.” Prof Awbi says

Polluted indoor air quality can affect the brain through blood oxygenation in 4 seconds so Professor Awbi, therefore, recommends that: “The best way to prevent indoor air pollution affecting children’s brains is to reduce the levels of potentially dangerous particles by ensuring that homes are effectively ventilated, as allowing pollutants to accumulate reduces air quality and can lead to chronic exposure”.

Polluted indoor air is also linked to a range of health conditions including cardiovascular disease, asthma, allergy, COPD and even cancer. It is estimated that indoor air pollution claims many thousands of lives a year and accounts for the annual loss of 204,129 healthy life years in the UK.