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Health Effects of Indoor Air Pollution

Exposure to indoor-generated air pollution causes a large number of deaths and cases of disease. These effects are found, largely, in developing countries where people, especially women and young children, are exposed to high concentrations of smoke produced by biomass burning for cooking. Approximately 3 million deaths occur each year. In developed countries, the problem is much less acute: accidental exposure to high concentrations of carbon monoxide is the main cause of death. It should be remembered, however, that much of people's exposure to pollutants generated outdoors occurs in the indoor environment. Indoor exposure to particulate matter has the same effects as outdoor exposure: the cardiovascular system is most affected, with deaths being due to ischaemic heart disease and stroke. Exposure to particulate matter may also contribute to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Exposure to high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, although perhaps not having a great effect on measures of lung function, may contribute to the development of emphysema and reduce the resistance of the body to bacterial and viral infections. Lung cancer, due to exposure to carcinogens in wood smoke, also occurs. Efforts to reduce levels of indoor air pollution in developing countries, for example by providing flued cooking stoves, have been shown to reduce the prevalence of disease.

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12 Jun 2019
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