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Home News and Update Year 2010 Indoor Air Pollution: A Major Public Health Concern in Women

Indoor Air Pollution: A Major Public Health Concern in Women

Times of India
27 March 2010

Dr Rajesh Dikshit, Dr Sudeep Gupta
The commonly known and well advertised risk factors for the cancer are tobacco smoking, tobacco chewing, some infectious agent (like HPV) and dietary factors. However, one risk factor of great concern to women, particularly in India and developing countries is indoor air pollution. The sources of indoor air pollution for women in India are twofold, passive smoking by male members of the family and use of solid fuels like wood, crop residue, animal dung, coal etc. for cooking. Many studies have confirmed the increased risk of lung cancer among wives of smokers. There is no doubt that smoking at home increases the risk of developing lung cancer among those who regularly come in contact with the secondary tobacco smoke.

However indoor air pollution resulting from the use of solid fuels is a significant public health concern in rural India where a substantial proportion of the population relies exclusively on such fuels for cooking and heating. In India, more than 70 per cent of the total population uses solid fuels for cooking. It has been estimated that this may account for up to 4-6 per cent of the national burden of disease. A recent monograph on indoor air pollution by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that indoor air pollution from coal usage is a known human carcinogen, while that from biomass (primarily wood) is a probable human carcinogen. Indoor air pollution because of long duration of exposure to coal results in increased risk of lung, hypopharynx and larynx cancer. A study conducted by an Indian group observed a seven fold increased in risk of developing lung cancer associated with coal usage. It is important to highlight and spread the message of the risk of cancer caused by indoor air pollution, as these risks are completely avoidable. In this age of modern technology and clean fuels it should be of utmost priority to provide clean fuels to Indian kitchens.

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