A growing scientific evidence base shows that exposure to the products of poor combustion, particularly small particles, is responsible for as many as 12 million premature deaths in the world annually. Most well known is the impact of people putting burning material into their mouths—incomplete combustion of tobacco—which is responsible for about half this total. Only relatively recently, however, has the full impact of other sources of incomplete combustion become documented. Based on large international reviews of the evidence coming out this year, it is estimated that outdoor air pollution, primarily combustion-related particles, is responsible for nearly 3 million premature deaths around the world. Although people have traditionally thought of outdoor pollution as an urban phenomenon, recent studies using satellites as well as ground-level monitoring show that rural outdoor air pollution is also a serious problem in many poor countries, including much of Asia. It is also now understood that the smoke from biomass and coal use for cooking in poor countries is responsible for an even greater health burden than that from general outdoor pollution. This household air pollution directly affects 40 percent of the world population. Moving to clean combustion or non-combustion energy sources could therefore have immense health benefits globally.


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  • Received: 07 May 2012
  • Accepted: 07 May 2012
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