4 million people die annually from respiratory illness due to burning of wood and other biomass for cooking. That is one death every eight seconds.
Cooking on traditional cook stoves, three stones or similar, is a far greater risk factor than poor water and sanitation. Respiratory illness from breathing the emissions from inefficient cook stoves causes more than double the annual deaths attributed to either malaria (1.2 million) or HIV/AIDS (1.5 million).
1 death every 8 seconds
To break down the 4 million figure, it means respiratory illness from cooking on inefficient cook stoves causes:
- 11,000 deaths per day
- 450 deaths per hour
- 7.6 deaths per minute
- 1 death every 8 seconds
3.5 million is directly related to indoor air pollution, whereas 0.5 million is from the outdoor air pollution due to household cooking. Of the 4 million in total, 0.5 million are child pneumonia deaths.
The staggering figure on the devastating health impact of energy poverty was published in the Global Burden of Disease study, which is the largest ever systematic effort to describe the global distribution and causes of mortality.
Seven research institutions from around the world, including Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Imperial College London, the University of Tokyo, and the World Health Organization (WHO), collaborated on the study, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The research was much expanded in scope from the 1990 Global Burden of Disease study funded by the World Bank.
The new study, if compared to the figures from 20 years ago, marks a decline in global deaths due to cook stove pollution (which stood at 4.6 million in the 1990 study.) But it is double the 2 million annual figure that WHO has been attributing to deaths due to indoor smoke from solid fuels.
The sad thing is that these deaths stem from energy poverty where families are polluting themselves just to cook their meals. Luckily there are solutions to bring down the figure dramatically by introducing cleaner, safer and efficient cook stoves through programmes such as Darfur Stoves Project.
Clean Energy and Safe Drinking Water for Darfur