PMCCPMCCPMCC

Search tips
Search criteria 

Advanced

 
Logo of envhperEnvironmental Health PerspectivesBrowse ArticlesAbout EHPGeneral InformationAuthorsMediaProgramsPartnerships
 
Environ Health Perspect. 2010 October; 118(10): A424.
PMCID: PMC2957939
Perspectives
Correspondence

The Global Burden of Air Pollution on Mortality: The Need to Include Exposure to Household Biomass Fuel–Derived Particulates

Jamie Rylance and Duncan G. Fullerton
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, United Kingdom, E-mail: ku.ca.vil@ecnalyrj
Sean Semple
Scottish Centre for Indoor Air, Institute of Applied Health Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Anenberg et al. (2010) demonstrated that global mortality associated with outdoor ozone and particulate matter (PM) exposure has been underestimated and that anthropogenic atmospheric PM rather than ozone is the main contributor to death. Although we acknowledge that their investigation was concerned with outdoor air pollution alone, we feel that attention should be drawn to the burden of disease from household air pollution.

Half the world’s population is exposed to fine PM [< 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5)] in their own homes as a consequence of using biomass fuels such as wood, charcoal, and animal/crop residues for cooking, lighting, and heating. Such exposure is prolonged, extensive, and overlooked by examination of atmospheric models alone (Torres-Duque et al. 2008).

Combustion of biomass fuels has been repeatedly demonstrated to produce high concentrations of domestic air pollution, with PM2.5 exposures extending in to the milligram per cubic meter range, orders of magnitude above concentrations from exposure to anthropogenic particulate pollution outdoors (Regalado et al. 2006). Rural populations, and women in particular, are likely to have particularly high indoor exposures because of the extended time spent on cooking and household activity (Mestl et al. 2007).

Anenberg et al. (2010) used exposure– response functions derived from epidemiological studies of outdoor air, which emphasize cardiopulmonary mortality in older cohorts. Household air pollution from biomass fuel combustion contributes to chronic respiratory disease and cardiorespiratory events. However, it is particularly implicated in pneumonia in young children (Dherani et al. 2008) and has been ranked the 11th most important risk factor in global mortality, predominantly because of the association with infection (Ezzati et al. 2004). These early deaths would contribute considerably to the estimate of years of life lost due to PM.

We agree with Anenberg et al. (2010) that anthropogenic PM is an important global cause of premature death. However, outdoor levels report only part of the picture and may significantly underestimate the total PM-related mortality burden.

Recent work (Pope et al. 2009) has brought together data on exposure–response functions for outdoor air pollution and cigarette smoking, and there is a need for additional similar work to integrate studies on indoor biomass combustion (Ezzati et al. 2000). These studies would help clarify the exposure–response function of household air pollution as well as assist in the important process of identifying the most cost-efficient means of reducing exposure among the 3 billion people who bear the health burden from high particulate concentrations at home.

References

  • Anenberg SC, Horowitz LW, Tong DQ, West JJ. An estimate of the gobal burden of anthropogenic ozone and fine particulate matter on premature human mortality using atmospheric modeling. Environ Health Perspect. 2010;118:1189–1195. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901220. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
  • Dherani M, Pope D, Mascarenhas M, Smith KR, Weber M, Bruce N. Indoor air pollution from unprocessed solid fuel use and pneumonia risk in children aged under five years: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Bull WHO. 2008;86(5):390– 398. [PubMed]
  • Ezzati M, Rodgers A, Lopez AD, Vander Hoorn S, Murray CJL. Mortality and burden of disease attributable to individual risk factors. In: Ezzati M, Lopez AD, Rodgers A, Murray CJL, editors. Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Global and Regional Burden of Disease Attribution to Selected Major Risk Factors. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2004. [[accessed 3 September 2010]]. pp. 2141–2166. Available: http://www.who.int/publications/cra/chapters/volume2/2141-2166.pdf.
  • Ezzati M, Saleh H, Kammen DM. The contributions of emissions and spatial microenvironments to exposure to indoor air pollution from biomass combustion in Kenya. Environ Health Perspect. 2000;108:833–839. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Mestl HE, Aunan K, Seip HM, Wang S, Zhao Y, Zhang D. Urban and rural exposure to indoor air pollution from domestic biomass and coal burning across China. Sci Total Environ. 2007;377(1):12–26. [PubMed]
  • Pope CA, III, Burnett RT, Krewski D, Jerrett M, Shi Y, Calle EE, et al. Cardiovascular mortality and exposure to airborne fine particulate matter and cigarette smoke: shape of the exposure-response relationship. Circulation. 2009;120(11):941–948. [PubMed]
  • Regalado J, Perez-Padilla R, Sansores R, Paramo Ramirez JI, Brauer M, Pare P, et al. The effect of biomass burning on respiratory symptoms and lung function in rural Mexican women. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2006;174(8):901–905. [PubMed]
  • Torres-Duque C, Maldonado D, Perez-Padilla R, Ezzati M, Viegi G. Biomass fuels and respiratory diseases: a review of the evidence. Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2008;5(5):577–590. [PubMed]

Articles from Environmental Health Perspectives are provided here courtesy of National Institute of Environmental Health Science