Household air pollution from coal and biomass fuels in China: measurements, health impacts, and interventions.
Nearly all China's rural residents and a shrinking fraction of urban residents use solid fuels (biomass and coal) for household cooking and/or heating. Consequently, global meta-analyses of epidemiologic studies indicate that indoor air pollution from solid fuel use in China is responsible for approximately 420,000 premature deaths annually, more than the approximately 300,000 attributed to urban outdoor air pollution in the country. Our objective in this review was to help elucidate the extent of this indoor air pollution health hazard.
We reviewed approximately 200 publications in both Chinese- and English-language journals that reported health effects, exposure characteristics, and fuel/stove intervention options.
Observed health effects include respiratory illnesses, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, weakening of the immune system, and reduction in lung function. Arsenic poisoning and fluorosis resulting from the use of "poisonous" coal have been observed in certain regions of China. Although attempts have been made in a few studies to identify specific coal smoke constituents responsible for specific adverse health effects, the majority of indoor air measurements include those of only particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and/or nitrogen dioxide. These measurements indicate that pollution levels in households using solid fuel generally exceed China's indoor air quality standards. Intervention technologies ranging from simply adding a chimney to the more complex modernized bioenergy program are available, but they can be viable only with coordinated support from the government and the commercial sector.
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