Indoor air pollution a more serious threat than outdoor in South Africa

Poor black households carry majority of South Africa’s air pollution burden, indoor air-pollution a more serious threat than outdoor, according to the Institute of Race Relations (IRR)

South Africans face two types of air pollution. The first is outdoor air pollution of the type created by power stations or large industrial producers.

The IRR found that while South Africa’s cities fall short of World Health Organisation (WHO) standards when it comes to outdoor air quality, that is also true for 98% of all large cities.

According to the IRR while outdoor air pollution deserved policy attention a far more serious problem is indoor air pollution.

Ivo Vegter, an independent journalist who was commissioned by the IRR to do research for the paper, said, “The problem of indoor air pollution is generally overlooked but has very serious health implications”.

Vegter found that low indoor air quality affects 20% of the population with most of the burden falling on poor black households.

The paper found that such pollution arose mainly from poor households being forced to use solid fuels for cooking and heating.

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According to the paper, indoor air pollution contributed to a host of lung and respiratory diseases as well as ear, nose and throat problems, cardiovascular diseases, and even perinatal mortality and/or low birth weight in children.

Children are especially susceptible to problems related to indoor air pollution.

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IRR CEO, Dr. Frans Cronje, said “The paper we have published sheds light on an area about which little was previously known but one that represents a serious threat to the health and welfare of 1 in every 5 South Africans.

We would urge government leaders and political parties to make indoor air pollution a policy priority”.

As solutions the IRR proposed that policy makers consider:

  • Accelerated electrification of households
  • The introduction of cleaner-burning braziers and stoves
  • The phasing in of cleaner-burning and low smoke fuels
  • Better insulation in low income housing
  • Improved access to LPG gas
  • The introduction of biogas digesters

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