WHO Continues to Address HAP as a Major Risk Factor for NCDS in South East Asia
South East Asia* and, specifically, India has some of the largest exposures and, as a result, largest burden of disease from poor air quality, including both household and outdoor (ambient) pollution.
A large proportion of HAP-related illness and premature death is caused by noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including chronic respiratory and cardiovascular disease. In addition, low birth weight associated with prenatal exposure to HAP is a major risk factor for NCDs later in life. Indeed, the health risks of exposure to HAP emphasize the fact that chronic conditions like heart or lung disease are not just about men with ‘bad habits’, it is also the leading cause of death among women developing countries. The vast majority of these women do not smoke, are not overweight, are physically active, and do not abuse alcohol. And yet, many of these women share a risk factor: exposure to air pollution from cooking with solid fuels under poorly ventilated conditions, and as a result of outdoor air pollution in their communities.
Indeed, the WHO South East Asia region passed a ground-breaking resolution last year noting that household air pollution (HAP) should be considered a leading risk factor for NCDs in the region. Building on this resolution, the WHO South-East Asia Region held a workshop on Air Quality and Human Health in Delhi on December 11-12th. Representatives from the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves were among the participants at the two-day workshop, which also included SEARO Region Member States, Clean Air Asia, and US Centers for Disease Surveillance and Prevention. The recently released WHO Indoor Air Quality Guidelines were a major topic of discussion at the meeting. These guidelines are designed to provide countries and implementing partners with practical information on the performance and characteristics of household combustion technologies and fuels, to facilitate a transition to clean household energy, including clean cookstoves, as quickly as possible.
“We must act to protect people from air pollution. The poor, living near busy roads or industrial sites, are disproportionately affected by air pollution. Women and children pay the heaviest price, as they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from cooking stoves. Half the deaths due to pneumonia in children aged less than five years can be attributed to household air pollution making it a leading risk factor for childhood deaths,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.
Note: The Alliance is strengthening partnerships with leading public health agencies in its focus countries, including Ministries of Health, WHO Country and Regional Offices, Centers for Disease Control, and key private and non-governmental entities in order to ensure better awareness of the public health benefits of scaling up clean cooking.
* Household air pollution (HAP) is of particular concern within the region, which includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.