Indoor air pollution
Cooking set-up: rural Bangladesh (video)
This World Bank research focuses on indoor air pollution, and collecting data on the severity of acute respiratory infections in developing countries from outdoor and indoor causes, investigating the determinants of air quality in both settings, and suggesting potential interventions.
Contact: Susmita Dasgupta, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bangladesh | Data | Project documents | Research outputs | Researchers
According to the Global and Regional Burden of Disease Reports (World Health Organization) acute respiratory infections from indoor air pollution—burning wood, animal dung, and other biofuels—are estimated to kill one million children annually in developing countries. A particularly heavy toll falls on poor families in South Asia (42% of total deaths) and Africa (28%). This has prompted the World Bank to include reduction of indoor air pollution as a critical element of its environment strategy.
Ongoing work on indoor air pollution investigates the determinants of indoor air pollution in South Asia and Africa, where the toll is heaviest, and proposes simple, low-tech solutions. The World Health Organization estimates that acute respiratory infections from indoor air pollution—burning wood, animal dung, and other biofuels—kill one million children annually in developing countries.
Research on the determinants of indoor air pollution in Bangladesh used the latest air monitoring technology and data from a national household survey in 2003-04 to look at household characteristics—construction materials, space configurations, cooking locations, and the location of doors and windows—as factors in exposure to indoor air pollution.
The team also conducted a series of controlled experiments to assess housing characteristics—such as building materials, cooking locations, and window/door configurations—that promote cleaner air.
Pollution from the cooking area diffuses into living spaces rapidly and completely.
If cooking with clean fuels is not possible, building the kitchen with permeable construction material and providing proper ventilation in cooking areas will yield a better indoor health environment.
Outdoor air pollution also affects indoor pollution and vice versa.
The optimal cooking location should take ”seasonality” into account. During the polluted high-dust season, air quality in interior kitchens is much better than in outdoor or detached cooking facilities. It is important to factor in the interaction between outdoor and indoor air pollution in efforts to improve indoor air quality.
The role of outdoor pollution in determining indoor air quality implies a potential problem with promoting the widespread use of chimneys to improve indoor air.
The use of chimneys may improve indoor air in individual households, or when dwellings are dispersed, but cooking smoke emerging from chimneys in a cluster of households is likely to aggravate outdoor air pollution. The polluted outdoor environment, in turn, will adversely affect indoor air quality for the entire cluster. More about controlled experiments
"Addressing Household Air Pollution: A Case Study in Rural Madagascar," Susmita Dasgupta, Paul Martin and Hussain A. Samad. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, 6627, 2013.
Household air pollution is the second leading cause of disease in Madagascar, where more than 99 percent of households rely on solid biomass, such as charcoal, wood, and crop waste, as the main cooking fuel. Only a limited number of studies have looked at the emissions and health consequences of cook stoves in Africa. This paper summarizes an initiative to monitor household air pollution in two towns in Madagascar, with a stratified sample of 154 and 184 households. Concentrations of fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide in each kitchen were monitored three times using UCB Particle Monitors and GasBadge Pro Single Gas Monitors. The average concentrations of both pollutants significantly exceeded World Health Organization guidelines for indoor exposure. A fixed-effect panel regression analysis was conducted to investigate the effects of various factors, including fuel (charcoal, wood, and ethanol), stove (traditional and improved ethanol), kitchen size, ventilation, building materials, and ambient environment. Judging by its effect on fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide, ethanol is significantly cleaner than biomass fuels and, for both pollutants, a larger kitchen significantly improves the quality of household air. Compared with traditional charcoal stoves, improved charcoal stoves were found to have no significant impact on air quality, but the improved wood stove with a chimney was effective in reducing concentrations of carbon monoxide in the kitchen, as was ventilation.
“Indoor Air Quality for Poor Families: Evidence from Bangladesh”, Susmita Dasgupta, Mainul Huq, M. Khaliquzzaman, Kiran Pandey and David Wheeler, Indoor Air 16(6): 426-44, 2006. (Based on Policy Research Working Paper 3393, 2004.)
A switch to “clean” fuel is unrealistic for more poor families, either because they are not available, they are too expensive. Acceptance of improved stoves has been low because of high prices, maintenance costs, and incompatibility with food preparation traditions. But improved air quality can be achieved with simple changes in cooking ventilatation. The use of permeable construction materials, changes in space configurations and cooking locations, appropriate placement of doors and windows) and ventilation practices (keeping doors and windows open after cooking) can benefit all benefit the occupants. A national “clean household” promotion program, combined with effective public education on the associated health benefits, could reduce Indoor Air Pollution exposure to much safer levels.
"Who Suffers from Indoor Air Pollution: Evidence from Bangladesh,” Susmita Dasgupta, Mainul Huq, M. Khaliquzzaman, Kiran Pandey and David Wheeler, Health Policy and Planning 21:444-58, 2006. (Based on Policy Research Working Paper 3428, 2004.)
Hourly pollution levels in cooking and living areas are quite similar because cooking smoke diffuses rapidly and nearly completely into adjacent living areas. However, outdoor pollution is far lower. At present, young children are only outside for an average of 3 hours per day. For children in a typical household, pollution exposure can be halved by adopting two simple measures: increasing outdoor time for children from 3 to 5 or 6 hours per day, and concentrating outdoor time during peak cooking periods. Although the recommendations of this research focus particularly on changes for infants and young children, since they suffer the worst mortality and morbidity from indoor air pollution, these recommendations also apply to women and adolescents.
"Improving Indoor Air Quality for Poor Families: A Controlled Experiment in Bangladesh,” Susmita Dasgupta, Mainul Huq, M. Khaliquzzaman and David Wheeler, Indoor Air 19: 22-32, 2009. (Based on Policy Research Working Paper 4422, 2007.)
Also published as World Bank Energy Sector Management Assistance Program, Knowledge Exchange Series Note 13, March 2009.
In rural Bangladesh, indoor air pollution is dangerously high for poor households dependent on biomass cooking fuels. Poor households almost always use “dirty” biomass fuels because in many areas "clean” fuels, such as kerosene or liquefied petroleum gas are not available or are too pricey. Even after experimenting with various structural arrangements—from building materials and space configurations to cooking locations—and ventilation practices to reduce indoor air pollution the study found that outdoor air pollution affects indoor air pollution e(.g., the optimal cooking location should take ”seasonality” in account). Pollution from fuelwood, dung, and other biomass fuels is the more severe. And lastly, building materials significantly affect indoor air quality. If cooking with clean fuels is not possible, then building the kitchen with permeable construction material and providing proper ventilation in cooking areas will yield a healthier indoor environment.
- Susmita Dasgupta (Lead Researcher, World Bank)
- Mainul Huq (Consultant)
- Craig Meisner (World Bank)
- Kiran Pandey (World Bank)
- David Wheeler (Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development)