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Old March 2nd, 2006, 04:03 AM   #1
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Indoor Air Pollution

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While there are plenty of news stories about outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution could be just as deadly, especially since many office workers spend long hours indoors.

Agence France Presse
February 21, 2006
China's skyscrapers as polluted as air outside

Nearly all of China's fast-rising number of skyscrapers are filled with excessive air pollutants that could cause serious harm to office workers, state press said Tuesday.

In the capital of Beijing, 81 percent of the buildings tested by the National Interior Decoration Association last year had excessive levels of ammonia, the China Daily reported.

Half of the buildings also contained unsafe levels of ozone and 42 percent were polluted with formaldehyde, all of which can cause severe health conditions such as asthma and Legionnaires' disease, according to the paper.

In Shenzhen, the richest city in southern China, the local authority for disease prevention and control carried out similar tests last year and found more than 90 per cent of the offices had excessive air pollutants.

In Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei province, 89.8 percent of 572 new and remodelled offices contained high levels of air pollutants, with some having ammonia levels 18 times above safety standards, the paper said.

"If you scan every office building against the official indoor air quality standard, you can rarely find one that is fully qualified," the paper quoted the decoration association's director of indoor environment testing, Song Guangsheng, as saying.

Construction and decoration materials, furniture, electronic apparatuses and poor ventilation all contribute to the air pollution, according to Song.

The report indicated the situation for China's growing number of office workers had not improved from 2003, when the government established indoor air quality standards.

Government statistics released then said as many as 111,000 people died of indoor pollution annually in China.
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Old February 5th, 2007, 11:54 AM   #2
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Indoor Air Quality Resource
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/

Asthma and Indoor Environments - Asthma afflicts about 20 million Americans, including 6.3 million children. Since 1980, the biggest growth in asthma cases has been in children under five. In 2000 there were nearly 2 million emergency room visits and nearly half a million hospitalizations due to asthma, at a cost of almost $2 billion, and causing 14 million school days missed each year. Read More... http://www.epa.gov/asthma/index.html

Molds are part of the natural environment. Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture. Read More... http://www.epa.gov/mold/index.html

Smoke-free Homes Program - Secondhand smoke affects everyone, but children are especially vulnerable because they are still growing and developing. EPA has created a national Smoke-free Home Pledge Initiative to motivate parents to protect their children. http://www.epa.gov/smokefree/index.html

Green Building - Do your buildings create a healthy environment for their occupants? The building industry is increasingly focused on making its buildings greener, which includes using healthier, less polluting and more resource-efficient practices. Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) refers to the quality of the air and environment inside buildings, based on pollutant concentrations and conditions that can affect the health, comfort and performance of occupants -- including temperature, relative humidity, light, sound and other factors. Good IEQ is an essential component of any building, especially a green building. Read More... http://www.epa.gov/iaq/greenbuilding/index.html
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Old May 24th, 2007, 06:41 AM   #3
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WHO: Indoor fires for cooking, heating kill 1.5 million every year
30 April 2007

GENEVA (AP) - Some 1.5 million people die every year as a result of pollution in their own homes when coal, wood, dung and other solid fuels are burned for cooking and heating, the World Health Organization said Monday.

Eighty percent of worldwide deaths from indoor air pollution occur in 11 countries -- Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tanzania -- WHO said in a statement.

The agency said the use of solid fuels is among the top ten threats to public health worldwide.

Exposure to polluted air can cause diseases ranging from pneumonia to chronic respiratory sickness, the global health body said.

"A shift towards cleaner and more efficient modern fuels, such as biogas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene could largely eliminate this health risk and prevent 1.5 million deaths a year globally," WHO said.
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Old May 24th, 2007, 06:42 AM   #4
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Household fuels in poor countries cause five pct of deaths: WHO

GENEVA, April 30, 2007 (AFP) - Almost five percent of deaths and disease are caused by household air pollution in 21 mainly African countries, and could be easily prevented by switching fuels, the World Health Organisation said Monday.

The health risks could be eliminated and some 1.5 million lives saved if people in the world's poorest countries were able to give up solid fuels, the WHO said in a statement.

Reliance on solid fuels and indoor air pollution is rated as one of the 10 most important threats to public health, causing pneumonia and crippling respiratory disease.

About three billion people depend on wood, dung, crop residues and coal for cooking and heating.

"The prevention potential is enormous," said WHO Assistant Director-General Susanne Weber-Mosdorf.

"Solutions are available, and it is our international responsibility to promote the health and well-being of those affected, who are mostly women and children," she added.

The WHO is calling for a shift towards cleaner and more efficient modern fuels, such as biogas, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and kerosene as well as improved cooking stoves, and smoke hoods to cut indoor household pollution.

The data was released as ministers met during the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development in New York, to decide on measures against indoor air pollution.

The 21 worst-affected countries include 19 in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Last year, the WHO estimated that the death toll from "the killer in the kitchen" included 800,000 children and 500,000 women.
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Old June 27th, 2007, 11:18 AM   #5
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A more generic article but contains some info on indoor air pollution :

WHO: Reducing environmental risks could save million lives annually
14 June 2007

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Tackling air pollution, contaminated drinking water and other environmental problems could save millions of lives annually around the world, the World Health Organization said in a report Wednesday.

The study said that Afghanistan and the African nations of Angola, Burkina Faso and Mali are among the countries most affected by environmental troubles.

In 23 countries, more than 10 percent of deaths can be traced to two risk factors: unsafe drinking water and indoor air pollution caused by the burning of so-called solid fuels -- wood, cow dung or coal for cooking, the WHO said.

The report also highlights that more developed countries are not immune to environmental health risks.

In 53 countries in Europe, for example, an estimated 1.8 million deaths could be prevented each year if more efforts were made to create a healthier environment.

WHO said its results were based on 2002 data from national health authorities, reviews of scientific literature and expert surveys. It also encompasses data collected by the WHO.

The report said as many as 13 million deaths could be prevented yearly by reducing the environmental risks. But WHO officials stressed the report was a preliminary estimate of how environmental factors affect health.

"We would be very glad if these country-by-country figures are used as the basis for a discussion on effective countermeasures," said Susanne Weber-Mosdorf, the WHO's assistant director-general for sustainable development and healthy environments.

Simple water purification methods could decrease the rate of diseases such as diarrhea that affect many children, Weber-Mosdorf told a news conference in Vienna.

Around the world, children under five years old make up 74 percent of deaths from diarrhea and respiratory infections, the WHO said.

Thirty-seven children die each day of water-related diarrhea in Europe, mostly in eastern and central parts of the region, according to WHO.

The WHO suggested that using gas or electricity for cooking, improving ventilation or keeping children away from smoke could reduce the number of deaths.
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Old June 27th, 2007, 04:51 PM   #6
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I think something has to be said about the quality of production and development of building products for in-door use nowadays. The products are getting cheaper and cheaper with quality dropping to no measure. Now we heat about them being toxic? Thats just too much. Almost as bad as the days when asbestos was used!
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Old December 16th, 2008, 10:44 AM   #7
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Decorative plants work to absorb air pollution
7 October 2008
The Jakarta Post

Decorative plants can be grown almost anywhere and when placed around the yard, can make the home environment more pleasant. Likewise, decorative plants grown in a pot can also beautify the interior of a home.

Nowadays, people are starting to look more closely at plants that absorb air pollution. Such plants offer double benefits: Apart from decorating a room, they also absorb poisonous substances that circulate in air.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Report on Interior Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, there are as many as 29 varieties of decorative plants that are able to absorb pollution from the air.

"The best plants for absorbing poisons can be placed inside the home," said Saiful Sulun, an agricultural researcher from the Winasari Garden in Bogor, West Java.

According to environmentalists who cultivate decorative plants, small trees and shrubs that function as absorbents of air pollution are suitably placed inside the home or office. Likewise, in areas where people smoke.

Saiful, who was a speaker in a discussion on the properties of decorative plants at the 2008 Flora Exhibition, which was held at Banteng Field, Jakarta, in August, said there were some varieties of decorative plant that could be used as anti-pollution plants around the home.

Among them are the yellow palm (Chrysalindocarpus lutescens) the Paris lily (Cholorophyllum clevelandii), blanceng, or Chinese evergreen (Araceae), sirih gading (Scindapsus aureus), lidah buaya (Aloe vera) and lidah mertua, or sansieveira (Sansieviera trivasciata).

It has been proven that the lidah mertua (translated as "mother-in-law's tongue") plant, for example, has a special ability to neutralize polluted air: According to research conducted by NASA, the leaves of the lidah mertua are able to absorb formaldehyde at the rate of 0.938 grams/hour.

In a room measuring 75 square meters, for example, only four leaves of an adult sansieviera plant are required to keep the room free of pollutants.

Formaldehyde is a colorless gas that inhibits breathing. It can come from the smoke of burning forests, and the fumes from vehicle exhaust systems and cigarette smoke.

This dangerous gas is often used to preserve dead bodies, as a preservative in paint, an ingredient in cosmetics and medicines, and in timber processing.

The Paris lily and yellow palm are beneficial in absorbing carbon monoxide, a major air pollutant. This dangerous substance, which is produced from vehicle and factory emissions, is one of the principal gasses causing global warming.

Yellow palm varieties are known to be particularly useful as pollutant absorbers, as they are able to produce as much as one liter of water vapor in 24 hours, which allows this plant to soak up a larger volume of poisonous gasses.

The aglaonema plant (Aglaonema brevispathan) can also absorb formaldehyde and benzena. Benzena is a dangerous chemical compound that is found oil, fuel and cigarette smoke, which can cause vomiting and headaches in humans when exposed to high doses.

Saiful said decorative plants have the special ability of absorbing poisons, while being easy to maintain. The plants can be placed inside a room, but can also be moved outdoors.

"They have to be routinely looked after and get exposure to sunshine. That's why pot plants kept inside the home should be regularly put outside to sunbathe every two or three days," she said.

Saiful suggested alternating potted plants of the same variety, so that when one is sunbathing, a replacement is still present in the home. Organic fertilizers or compost can be used to maintain plant health.

In the plant trade, decorative plants and varieties of anti-pollutant plants are easily found. Prices vary depending on the plant varieties, their age and their features, such as the form of their leaves and colors.

At the Flora and Fauna 2008 Exhibition, a medium-size potted sansieviera plant was priced from between Rp 15,000 to Rp 50,000 (US$1.50 to $5). Meanwhile, aglaonema seedlings were priced at around Rp 25,000 ($2.50) per punnet.

Apart from making rooms more beautiful, it is clear that some decorative plants have other benefits. By using plants to absorb gases and pollutants in the home, an environment can be created that offers fresher, healthier air to breathe.

In this age of increased environmental awareness, improving our surroundings can begin in the home - it's as simple as keeping potted plants.
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Old October 12th, 2010, 09:51 AM   #8
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Fighting a scourge in the home
U.S. to support group seeking to give the poor access to safer cookstoves

22 September 2010
International Herald Tribune

Nearly three billion people in the developing world cook their meals on primitive indoor stoves fueled by crop waste, wood, coal and dung. Every year, according to the United Nations, smoke from these stoves causes lung and heart diseases and low birth weight, killing 1.9 million people, mostly women and children.

The stoves also contribute to global warming as a result of the millions of tons of soot they spew into the atmosphere and the deforestation caused by cutting down trees to fuel them.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a significant commitment to a group working to address the problem, with a goal of providing 100 million clean-burning stoves to villages in Africa, Asia and South America by 2020. The United States is providing about $50 million in seed money over five years for the project, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

More than a dozen other partners, including governments, multilateral groups and corporations, are to contribute an additional $10 million or more.

Mrs. Clinton called the problem of indoor pollution from primitive cookstoves a ‘‘cross-cutting issue’’ that affects health, the environment and women’s status in much of the world. ‘‘That’s what makes it such a good subject for a coordinated approach of governments, aid organizations and the private sector,’’ she said Monday in an interview by telephone.

She acknowledged that the U.S. government’s contribution of $50 million was a modest commitment for a problem with enormous implications for billions of people worldwide.

‘‘Like anything,’’ she said, ‘‘we have to start somewhere.’’

Mrs. Clinton was to make the announcement at the annual aid conference sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative, former President Bill Clinton’s health, development and environmental organization. She was to be joined by Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and officials from a number of partner groups, including the United Nations Foundation.

Although the smoke from the primitive stoves is a leading environmental cause of death and disease, and perhaps the second-biggest contributor to global warming, after the industrial use of fossil fuels, it has long been neglected by governments and private aid organizations.

The World Health Organization says that indoor air pollution caused by such cooking methods is the fourth-greatest health risk factor in developing countries, after unclean water and sanitation, unsafe sex and undernourishment. The gathering of fuel is mainly done by women and children, millions of whom are exposed daily to dangers in conflict-torn regions. The need to forage for fuel also keeps millions of children out of school.

Although researchers have been aware of the health and environmental risks caused by carbon-belching indoor cookstoves for decades, there has been little focus on replacing them until recently, and it is not clear that the alliance’s high-profile initiative can pay the intended quick dividends. An estimated 500 million households depend on burning biomass for cooking and heating, some in the remotest places on earth, and it will not be easy to reach them with affordable and acceptable alternatives.

Even if the alliance’s goal were fully met, it would address no more than a fifth of the problem, according to its sponsors.

Stoves that are coming on the market for as little as $20 are 50 percent more efficient than current cooking methods, which are often simply open fires or crude clay domes, backers of the project say. A $100 model can capture 95 percent of the harmful emissions while burning far less fuel to produce the same amount of energy.

Reid Detchon, vice president for energy and climate at the United Nations Foundation, a founding partner of the alliance, said the plan was not simply to use donations to buy millions of new stoves and ship them out to the developing world.

Rather, he said, the group hopes to create an entrepreneurial model in which small companies manufacture or buy the stoves close to their markets, taking into account local fuel choices, food consumption patterns and methods of cooking. This microproject model is expected to provide business opportunities for women while reducing the fuel-gathering burden of women and children around the world.

‘‘The idea is how to create a thriving global industry in cookstoves, driven by consumers’ desire to have these products at a price they can afford,’’ Mr. Detchon said. ‘‘These stoves don’t have a long lifetime. To produce low cost and high volume, you’ll have to replace them relatively frequently, perhaps every two, three or five years. You’ll need a supply chain and business model that delivers them, not on a one-time basis, but as a continuing enterprise.’’

Among the other founding partners of the alliance are the Shell Foundation, the Morgan Stanley Foundation, the World Health Organization, the U.N. Environment Program, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the governments of Germany, Norway and the Netherlands.

Aside from the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, participating U.S. government entities include the Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services.
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Old October 14th, 2010, 11:10 AM   #9
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A healthier way to cook; Special Report
30 September 2010
International Herald Tribune

In tens of millions of homes in rural India, the kitchen is a cramped space with walls blackened by soot from open fire hearths.

Women spend hours every day in unventilated spaces cooking meals over smoky fires fueled by wood, dung and other biomass, often with small children in tow. The daily routine of inhaling toxic fumes is exacerbated by the long blow pipes that women use to keep cook fires burning.

This everyday scene has deadly consequences. Each year more than 1.5 million people worldwide die prematurely from lung cancer, emphysema, childhood pneumonia and other ailments caused by indoor air pollution — fumes from open cooking fires — according to the World Health Organization. In addition, millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are generated every year because about three billion people worldwide rely on open cooking fires.

The easy solution would be to switch to cleaner fuel, like liquefied petroleum gas or kerosene. But these fuels are too expensive for many people in developing countries. Groups like Envirofit, a nonprofit organization based in Colorado, are offering another solution: clean cookstoves.

Envirofit says that its stoves reduce harmful emissions 80 percent compared with traditional cooking fires, use 60 percent less fuel and cut cooking time 50 percent. In addition to creating a healthier environment at home, women and children can devote less time to foraging for fuel.

Ron Bills, chief executive of Envirofit, first visited southern India in 2007 and saw how village women coped with the laborious task of cooking a meal. ‘‘You could see a woman blowing into a pipe to keep the fire lit, breathing smoke with a child in tow,’’ said Mr. Bills, formerly the chief executive of Segway, the maker of electric two-wheeled personal transporters. In the developed world ‘‘cooking a meal is something we take for granted. You just turn on the gas on your stove or turn on a microwave.’’

Envirofit’s cylindrical metal stove looks like a lobster kettle or a small bucket. Wood or biomass is fed into an opening at the base of the stove and burned. Pots and pans rest on top. Simple as it looks, however, the design is based on five years of market research and a program of research, development and testing involving the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory at Colorado State University, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and the Shell Foundation.

The push for clean cookstoves to reduce indoor air pollution was elevated from a public health backwater to a high place on the global agenda last week, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of the United States kicked off the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves in New York, at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. The $60 million public-private campaign, led by the United Nations Foundation, aims to have 100 million households using clean, efficient cookstoves by 2020.

‘‘Today we can finally envision a future in which open fires and dirty stoves are replaced by clean, efficient and affordable stoves and fuels all over the world — stoves that still cost as little as $25,’’ Mrs. Clinton said. ‘‘By upgrading these dirty stoves, millions of lives could be saved and improved.’’

Through its commercially operated Indian division, Envirofit has sold more than 150,000 portable cookstoves in India, priced at $12 to $25.

Customers typically are people making $2 to $10 a day, but about 95 percent of stoves are bought in cash without loans.

When designing Envirofit’s cookstove, engineers used computer modeling to study the flow of heat and smoke in a combustion chamber and determine the best size and shape for the stove. Researchers developed a metal alloy and insulation that could withstand high temperatures.

‘‘Sheet metal or carbon steel will burn through in matter of weeks,’’ Mr. Bills said. ‘‘Stainless steel with a high nickel content becomes very expensive.’’

Envirofit’s final product is an iron-based alloy developed with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Envirofit’s stated mission, ‘‘to improve the human condition on a global scale’’ has unlikely origins in a U.S. competition in 2002 to retrofit snowmobiles.

Its co-founders, Tim Bauer and Nathan Lorenz, then graduate students at Colorado State University, won the competition with a design to convert two-stroke snowmobile engines into cleaner, more fuel-efficient direct injection systems.

Mr. Bauer and Mr. Lorenz realized the larger potential for their work even then. ‘‘There are only 100,000 snowmobiles in the United States. But there are millions of autorickshaws in Asia,’’ said Mr. Bauer, referring to the three-wheeled taxis common in developing countries. Organizations in the Philippines heard about their work with snowmobiles and asked for help retrofitting polluting, fuel-guzzling two-stroke autorickshaws.

Work on clean cookstoves began in earnest when Mr. Bills met representatives from the Shell Foundation at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in 2006. ‘‘It is exciting that this technology has the potential to affect half the world’s population and make life a little easier,’’ Mr. Bauer said.

Envirofit makes 90 percent of its sales in India. But it started in business in Africa this year, in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia and other countries. Plans are in the works to expand in Latin America.

The Shell Foundation, the charitable arm of Royal Dutch Shell, had been working on the issue of indoor air pollution for 10 years. The foundation last week pledged $6 million to the Global Alliance on Clean Cookstoves.

In spite of the support from Mrs. Clinton, ‘‘plenty of work remains in raising awareness about indoor air pollution and making clean cookstoves more efficient and affordable,’’ said Simon Bishop, head of policy and communications at the Shell Foundation. Global standards must be implemented and governments need to promote testing and certification of clean stoves. ‘‘This is an infant industry. We are going to need a lot of Envirofits,’’ Mr. Bishop said. ‘‘The world needs more energy but less carbon dioxide.’’
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Old December 31st, 2010, 01:09 PM   #10
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Your lungs at higher risk from wood smoke, dung cakes
17 November 2010
The Times of India

PUNE: Indoor air pollution and not smoking is the most important cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in India, says a prevalence study conducted by Pune-based Chest Research Foundation (CRF) in collaboration with the KEM Hospital, Pune, and the Imperial College, London. In the West and other wealthier countries, smoking is the single most important causative factor of COPD.

The CRF study found that the prevalence of the respiratory disease was 6.9 per cent in the Indian population. Among those identified with COPD, only 7 per cent were smokers while the remaining 93 per cent were non-smokers.

Over 700 million people in India suffer from high levels of indoor air pollution affecting women and young children as 75 per cent homes use biomass fuel like wood, crop residue and dung cakes.

Other research says that exposure to wood smoke through home heating and cooking or through ambient neighborhood pollution may further increase the risk of COPD and related pulmonary problems in smokers.

The age factor was particularly disturbing. "Nearly 23 per cent of COPDs occurred in people less than 40 years of age. It was believed that COPD starts after 40 in people who have been smoking for over 15-20 years. In India, where the exposure to indoor air pollution begins from childhood, it occurs in younger people," said chest physician Sundeep Salvi, director of the CRF.

According to a report published by the Maharashtra State Health Resource Centre in March 2010 that examined the top 10 causes of deaths in Maharashtra, COPD was the number one cause.

What can help at this moment is a national COPD control programme. "We have such programmes for malaria, filariasis, tuberculosis and AIDS. The mortality is far too high in COPD than any of these diseases. Policy makers should take up the issue and act fast, " said Salvi.

"Even though there is no similar report from other states in India, it seems likely that COPD may be one of the leading causes of death in other states too. The WHO had compiled a nationwide analysis in 2002, and reported that deaths due to chronic respiratory diseases accounted for the second largest cause of death, with COPD as the main cause of respiratory deaths," said Salvi.

He spearheaded the study along with social scientist Sanjay Juvekar from KEM Hospital and Peter Barnes, an eminent progessor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College, London (UK).

The study was conducted in 22 rural villages in Pune district with a population of over 1 lakh. As many as 3,000 adults over the age of 25 years were randomly selected for the study which used a standardised respiratory health questionnaire and spirometry (lung function test for determining COPD).

In the western, tobacco smoking is believed to be the most important risk factor for COPD. However, recent evidence refutes this. "Exposure to biomass fuel smoke is the biggest risk factor, not only for India, but even globally. Compared to 1.1 billion smokers, more than 3 billion people (50% of the global population) use biomass fuel for cooking and heating purposes worldwide," Salvi said.

"A woman living in a rural home in India spends on an average 60,000 hours cooking during her lifetime, during which she inhales a total volume of 25 million litres of polluted air. This causes extensive damage to the lungs leading to the development of COPD," he said.

Tobacco smoking is the second biggest cause of COPD in India. As the numbers of smokers increase in India, the burden of COPD is estimated to rise further. The other causes of COPD include poorly treated chronic asthma, certain occupations such as building and construction, mining, sand blasting, leather industry and farming, recurrent lung infections during childhood and poor nourishment especially during childhood.

BOX

What is COPD ?

COPD which stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a lung disease that causes a blockage or narrowing of the airways, the tubes in your lungs that air flows through. This results in a decrease in the flow of air, both in and out of your lungs. The disease has a slow, progressive course and is irreversible.

KEY FACT:

* COPD is currently the fourth largest cause of death in the world

* According to the World Health Organisation, it will become the third biggest cause of death by 2020

* Deaths due to COPD are estimated to increase by 160 per cent over the next two decades.

* An estimated 300 million people suffer with COPD worldwide.

* According to a report published by the Maharashtra State Health Resource Centre in March 2010 that examined the top 10 causes of death in Maharashtra, COPD stood out as the number one cause of death
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