Blog: Indoor air pollution in India and its damaging effects on health By Beulah Sarah James

Indoor air pollution is a topic of great concern especially in India due to its rampant health and environmental effects. Women and young children bear the brunt of indoor air pollution. 1 Women are traditionally responsible for cooking and spend hours nearby the cooking fire when compared to men. Under-five children stay at home and remain near the mother while cooking.

The use of biomass stoves come with a great after cost in terms of health. The eye effects include decreased vision, cataract, eye irritation and watering. There is an increased predisposition to develop burns, skin irritation as well as heart attacks and stroke. Irritated respiratory linings result in ear pain, running nose, cough, chronic bronchitis and asthma. Adverse pregnancy outcome include in miscarriages, still births, low birth weight and preterm births.

As per the National Census of India 2011, 49.0 % of the households use firewood, 8.9 % use crop residues while 28.5 % use Liquefied Petroleum Gas for cooking. Majority of rural households in India (90.8%) use traditional stoves without smoke outlets. 2

Biomass is considered as an affordable, easily accessible fuel and food cooked with biomass tastes better. Biomass is used for heating homes and the smoke is considered as a natural repellent for mosquitoes. Smoke outlets emit smoke outside the house and reduce the immediate health effects. The household energy pattern is observed where lower income households prefer biomass compared to higher income households.

Household air pollution is a burning topic of interest as it affects health of individuals as well as ambient air quality. Switching to cleaner fuels, community awareness, addressing low literacy and income is the need of the hour. India, being rich in resources and manpower need to strive to bring a positive change in curbing household air pollution.


  1. World Health Organization. Household Air pollution and Health[Internet].Geneva: WHO; 2018. [updated 2018 May 8; cited 2018 Oct 14]. Available from:
  2. Ministry of Home Affairs. Household Amenities and Assets-Census of India 2011. New Delhi: Governemt of India; 2011