According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 2.6 billion people globally prepare food using polluting open fires or outdated stoves fueled by kerosene, biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) or coal. This affects women and young children, who spend most of their time at home, where poorly ventilated areas lead to air pollution levels 100 times higher than the maximum allowed level.
Every year, about 4 million people die prematurely from diseases caused by indoor air pollution resulting from the use of inefficient solid fuel and kerosene stoves for cooking. Indoor air pollution leads to non-communicable diseases, including stroke, coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Nearly half of pneumonia deaths among children under 5 years of age are attributable to indoor air pollution from particulate matter or soot.
WHO is helping countries to cope with this problem and keeps track of statistics related to the use of polluting fuels. Between 2010 and 2019, access to clean cooking technologies increased by one percent annually. The main gains have come from five low- and middle-income countries—Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan. In the rest of the states included in these groups, the situation has not changed much, especially in rural areas.
Amorphous carbon (fine soot) and methane produced by burning fuels in low-efficiency furnaces are powerful drivers of climate change.
Many fuels and technologies used in households for cooking, heating and lighting are hazardous. Kerosene often causes poisoning in children when they mistakenly swallow the liquid fuel. In low- and middle-income countries, fuels used by households for cooking, heating or lighting are associated with a significant proportion of severe burns and injuries.
It is projected that by 2030 one third of the world’s population – mostly in sub-Saharan Africa – will still be using polluting fuels.