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WHO publishes first global indoor air quality guidelines

WHO Indoor Air Quality Guidelines: Household Fuel Combustion, published on 11 November 2014, set for the first time emission targets to address the serious health risks from burning fuels. They also oppose the use of unprocessed coal and kerosene, which severely pollutes indoor air and creates risks of fire, burns and poisoning. Worldwide, nearly 3 billion people still lack access to clean fuels and technology for cooking. In 2012, according to a WHO report, 4.3 million people died prematurely as a result of household air pollution.

While cooking over an open fire is not commonplace in countries in the WHO European Region, the health and climate-damaging effects from burning solid fuels, including wood and other biomass, for domestic heating remain critical issues. Over 117,000 deaths due to household air pollution occurred in this region in 2012.

Guideline recommendations

Meeting new emission targets means that some 90% of homes globally will meet WHO’s air quality guideline values. The guidelines’ recommendations stress the need to improve access to cleaner home energy sources, particularly in low and middle income countries.

Clean, sustainable sources of household fuel have an important role in climate change mitigation especially by reducing substantial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. WHO recommends that governments and other agencies developing and implementing policy on mitigating climate change consider action on household energy, and make assessments to maximize health and climate gains. In addition, clean technologies and fuels must be affordable by the lowest income households.

Source: World Health Organisation, 2014