Spending 90% of our time indoors, it is vital that we pay close attention to the quality of air we are breathing. The EPA has ranked indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental dangers faced by the general public. Although most people are aware of activities that may cause air pollution, cooking and heating your home may not be the first problem we think about.
New research has shown that the air inside our homes may be dirtier than the air outside, between two to five times more polluted. Using solid fuels to heat your home or cook can have damaging health effects, with 4.3 million people worldwide dying prematurely from illnesses related to indoor air pollution. It is astounding that 3 billion people must still resort to wood, charcoal, coal etc. including 6.5 million Americans who still use solid fuel in order to heat their homes.
Effects on your health
Cooking and heating with solid fuels releases particles into the air which can be extremely dangerous, sometimes leading to levels of pollution over 100 times higher than acceptable. The impaired blood vessel function, along with other issues which arise from using these inefficient fuels, can lead to a number of health problems including pneumonia, pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Short term problems include inflammation of the lungs and infections. The EPA claim further research is needed to investigate what levels of air pollution are classed as dangerous, but it is clear that these fuels should be used as a last resort.
Why is this not more prominent news?
With air pollution prematurely killing 200,000 Americans every year it is surprising that it is not discussed more or mentioned more frequently in the news. Associated with lower income countries, indoor air pollution is not an issue we would regard as news worthy. However, as the statistics show it is a huge problem, killing more people each year than car accidents. Many Americans no longer use solid fuels and it is the deprived and rural areas where residents still put themselves at risk by using these means to heat homes. The long term relevance of this news may be a suggestion as to why it is not constantly reported on and thankfully the numbers of users in the US is dropping.
There are ways in which you can help yourself if you are unable to update your means of cooking and heating, such as allowing plenty of ventilation and ensuring all ash and dirt is removed immediately after use. However, the statistics show that the risks of using solid fuels in the home are too great and we all need to be using alternatives if we wish to improve our air quality and hope to avoid illness.
Author: Lucy Wyndham
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash