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Around three billion people worldwide use solid fuels (e.g. coal, wood, charcoal and crop wastes) to cook and to heat their homes. When burnt, these fuels produce smoke that contains a very high concentration of fine particles (known as PM2.5) and other harmful substances, especially in houses without adequate ventilation.
It is estimated that worldwide about 2.5 million deaths in 2016 were related to the resulting household air pollution. In China, despite rapid urbanisation in recent decades, about one in three people still rely heavily on solid fuels, mostly coal and wood, for domestic purposes. The health impact of household air pollution on the Chinese population is therefore believed to be substantial, but previous research has not provided concrete evidence.
Researchers from the University of Oxford, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and Peking University in China have studied the association of the long-term use of solid fuels for cooking and heating with the risk of death from cardiovascular disease in a large study of 271,000 residents in five rural areas in China.