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Solid fuels and household air pollution

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    27th Aug, 2019

A study published states that the single greatest contributor to air pollution in India is the burning of solid fuels in households.

Context

A study published states that the single greatest contributor to air pollution in India is the burning of solid fuels in households.

About

  • The burning of solid fuels like firewood impacts the health of household members and accounts for somewhere between 22% to 52% of all ambient air pollution in India.
  • The study to cleaner fuels such as LPG for household use will have a dramatic impact on pollution levels and health problems due to pollution.

Solid fuels

  • Firewood, animal dung, and agricultural waste are some of the solid fuels commonly used in households across India as a means of generating energy for cooking, light, and heating, among other things.
  • One of the many pollutants produced on the burning of such solid fuels is fine particulate matter.
  • Fine particulate matter refers to particles or droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres (0.000001 metres) or less, and is also known as PM2.5.
  • Such particles can travel deep into the respiratory system, and exposure to them can cause several adverse health effects, both short-term and long-term, including respiratory problems and heart disease.
  • The emissions of PM2.5 generated by the burning of solid fuels in households are termed Household Air Pollution (HAP).
  • The study claims that approximately 800,000 premature deaths occur in India every year as a result of exposure to HAP indoors.
  • Moreover, the HAP produced indoors travels outdoors, and becomes a contributor to ambient air pollution, with around 300,000 more premature deaths per year attributable to exposure to outdoor HAP.
  • The full impact of HAP is thus composed of the exposures to HAP 1) inside and around a given house and 2) from the household contribution to ambient air pollution.
  • In states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Assam, around 72.1% of the population regularly uses solid fuels.

Recommendations

  • The study asserts that immediate action is required to rectify the harm caused by HAP.
  • It points to initiatives undertaken by the government of India to promote LPG for use in households as opposed to the traditionally used solid fuels, such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
  • More effort is required, in particular, increasing the use of electricity as a substitute in these scenarios, and ensuring that the use of LPG is sustained.
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