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Household energy usage, indoor air pollution, and health

Hemstock, Sarah L. and Mark, Charlesworth and Singh, Ranjila D. (2019) Household energy usage, indoor air pollution, and health. In: Good Health and Well-Being. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Springer Nature, Switzerland, TBC. ISBN 978-3-319-69627-0

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It seems likely that households have used energy for cooking for as long as there have been households. Globally, until the industrial revolution, this would have been principally woodfuel, agricultural waste (e.g. straw), dried dung and charcoal, with some regions relying on coal and peat. Archaeological evidence suggests the use of oil lamps for lighting appears to also stretch towards the beginnings of households, with ceramic decorated lamps dating from a few thousand years BC (Cam, 2014). Today, although difficult to estimate because traditional biomass energy use (for cooking and heating) is not accurately captured in energy statistics, bioenergy sources currently supply around 10-13% (1365 to 1775 million tonnes of oil equivalent annually) of the world's primary energy making biomass the world's fourth largest energy source (Hemstock & Singh, 2015; International Energy Agency, 2017). Around 70% (955 to 1242 million tonnes of oil equivalent annually) of this bioenergy use is in developing countries. It is used in the form of traditional woodfuel (fuelwood and charcoal), agricultural residues and dung to provide domestic energy services, mostly for cooking, by burning on open fires in 41% (Bonjour et at., 2013) of households in the world. These energy sources, along with coal and peat in some areas, are often inefficiently used and can be environmentally detrimental. They are deleterious to health when used traditionally and in inefficient domestic appliances in poorly ventilated cooking areas. Gender is also an issue as women are usually customarily responsible for cooking, meaning that women and children are at greater risk of exposure to high levels of indoor air pollution. In some least developed countries and in lower income households of developed countries, biomass provides more than 90% of total energy consumption for the populations who live in rural areas (Hemstock & Singh, 2015). A common issue affecting biomass, solid fossil fuel, and oil use for domestic energy services is that the products of combustion (smoke) are harmful to health if inhaled in substantial amounts over long periods of time, often leading to a range of illnesses such as pneumonia and significant impacts on increasing rates of mortality (WHO 2018; cf. Poddar and Chakrabarti 2016). Tragically, indoor air pollution is a key causal factor child pneumonia - a leading cause of death in children under five in many least developed countries, accounting for the deaths of around half a million children under the age of 5 years annually (Mortimer, 2017). This is clearly contrary to SDG3 Good Health and Wellbeing (UN 2015). Issues surrounding indoor air pollution and health are also directly linked to SDG7: Affordable and Clean Energy, which is related to fuel and technology choices available for domestic energy services; which are in turn linked to SDGs 1, 2, 4-6 and 8-13.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: DOI:
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
Divisions: Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE)
Depositing User: Ranjila Singh
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2019 04:19
Last Modified: 14 Apr 2021 05:08

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