4.3 million deaths caused by household air pollution in 2012: WHO

Dire need of policy and guidance that can promote public health and environment, including healthier homes and healthier transport, says health agency

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Thursday 28 August 2014


Finding solutions to the upcoming challenges due to change in climate was main agenda on second day of the global conference of World Health Organization (WHO) on health and climate change.

Experts highlighted that air pollution monitoring is limited and fragmented. The problem can be resolved by combining new methods including satellite tracking, remote sensing and chemical transport models. Such solutions can fill gaps and improve estimates. 

Cardiologist and epidemiologist McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario Salim Yusuf, said that a cardio-protective city should eradicate food nano-aggressors, which unlike bacteria and virus are not alive but present around us and are threats to human body. Food nano-aggressors include trans fat, excess of salt, added phosphoric acid while air nano-aggressors includes CO, SO2, NO2 and a few other compunds. By eradicating air-borne nano-aggressors and developing nano energies, a city can expect a 25 to 27 per cent reduction of cardiac disease. 

It was also discussed that there is need of policy and guidance for promoting public health and environment including healthier homes, healthier transport, healthier cities, greater access to clean energy for the poor and more resilient health facilities.  

Key points discussed in the programme
  • Particles smaller than 2.5μm penetrate deep into the lungs and affect the body more systematically, leading to diseases like stroke, heart disease, cancers and pneumonia

  • About 4.3 million deaths were attributed to household air pollution exposure in 2012

  • Over half of deaths from childhood pneumonia are attributed to the exposure to household air pollution (HAP)
  • In 2012, close to 3 billion people relied on primarily on solid fuels for cooking

  • Cardiovascular disease: They were rare in animals and rare within mankind before industrial revolution. They are still rare within mankind living outside industrialised world.
  • We can reduce: Three million annual deaths from urban air pollution and the loss of 3.2 million deaths from physical inactivity

  • Each year, undernutrition kills 3.1 million, malaria kills over 600,000, diarrhoea kills almost 600,000 children and extreme weather events kill tens of thousands. These and others are highly sensitive to a changing climate
  • Reducing short-lived climate pollutants is expected to save almost 2.5 million lives per year, and avoid 0.5 degree Celsius of warming by 2050

  • Sustainable urban transport could cut heart disease per cent and strokes by 10-20 per cent, breast cancer by 12-13 per cent, depression and dementia by 5-8 per cent in developed countries - greater gains in developing countries

  • Nearly 30 per cent reduction in animal fat consumption could reduce heart disease by 15-16 per cent in high- consumption populations, and cut GHG emissions

  • 2013 ranks as the sixth warmest on record, warmest in thirteen of  top 14 warmest years on record, global land and ocean surface temperature about 0.50 degree Celsius above 1961-1990 average 14 degree Celsius

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