Household Air Pollution Related to Solid Cookfuel Use: The Exposure and Health Situation in Developing Countries

  • Kalpana BalakrishnanEmail author
  • Sambandam Sankar
  • Santu Ghosh
  • Gurusamy Thangavel
  • Krishnendu Mukhopadhyay
  • Padmavathi Ramaswamy
  • Priscilla Johnson
  • Vijayalakshmi Thanasekaraan
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 64)


About half of the world’s population relies on traditional fuels such as biomass (wood, agricultural residues, animal dung, and charcoal) as the primary source of domestic energy. Nearly 2 billion kilograms of biomass is burnt everyday in developing countries. Use of open fires for cooking and heating exposes an estimated 2.8 billion people in the world to enhanced concentrations of particulate matter and gases, greatly in excess of the respective, current WHO air quality guidelines for 24-hour and annual mean concentrations. Household air pollution (HAP) from solid cook-fuel use is now estimated to be responsible for nearly 3.5 million deaths annually, with some of the highest disease burdens experienced by countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

An understanding of the linkages between household fuel use and human health is especially crucial for developing strategies to improve the household environment and the status of public health as they form an important prerequisite for all subsequent economic development. This chapter is devoted to describing the sources, emissions, and patterns of exposure and consequent health risks for solid cookfuel use in developing country settings. Potential intervention options for addressing household air pollution and household energy issues within the mainstream of environmental health and public health policies of the region are also described.

Graphical Abstract


Biomass fuels Burden of disease Coal Developing countries Household air pollution Wood 



Acute lower respiratory infection


Air quality guidelines


Acute respiratory infection


Carbon monoxide


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


Comparative risk assessment


Disability-adjusted life years


Energy Sector Management Assistance Program


Global burden of disease


Geometric mean


Household air pollution


Indoor air pollution


International Agency for Research on Cancer


Cubic meter




Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons


Particulate matter less than 10 μm in aerodynamic diameter


Particulate matter less than 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter


Parts per million


Unites States Environmental Protection Agency


World Health Organization







The authors wish to thank all colleagues and research partners of SRU for providing many technical inputs on issues related to subject of this chapter. Over the last decade, numerous research studies and platforms for technical discussion have provided insights for the revision of the chapter for this edition. We are especially grateful to Professor Kirk R. Smith at the University of California, Berkeley, for the technical and financial support provided by the Fogarty International Center for capacity building on household air pollution research at SRU and Dr. Nigel Bruce at the University of Liverpool for involving us in numerous household air pollution technical forums including the World Health Organization Indoor Air Quality Guideline Development Working Group. We also thank the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Deans, and the management of SRU. Finally, our grateful thanks to the members of the households, who graciously permitted us to use their homes for many of the studies reported here, allowing us to gain insights into the problem as it exists in the real world.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kalpana Balakrishnan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sambandam Sankar
    • 1
  • Santu Ghosh
    • 1
  • Gurusamy Thangavel
    • 1
  • Krishnendu Mukhopadhyay
    • 1
  • Padmavathi Ramaswamy
    • 1
  • Priscilla Johnson
    • 1
  • Vijayalakshmi Thanasekaraan
    • 1
  1. 1.ICMR Center for Advanced Research on Environmental Health (Air Pollution), Sri Ramachandra UniversityChennaiIndia

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