Over a million people in India — among highest in the world — die every year because of indoor air pollution.
But the country’s top advisory body the Planning Commission wants more epidemiological studies before it agrees to put in place national indoor air pollution norms.
Indoor air pollution is a bigger killer than outdoor air pollution in India with the recent global burden of diseases report listing the former as second biggest killer after high blood pressure in India.
The numbers clearly back this data. Around 1.3 million people died of indoor air pollution in 2010 whereas death because of outdoor air pollution was around 6.20 lakh.
Unlike many western countries, India does not have any guidelines for indoor air pollution, which mandate emission norms for home appliances such as refrigerators, air-conditioners and bread toasters and a limit beyond which dirty air inside a home can be bad for one’s health.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has prescribed 20 micro grams in cubic meter (ug/m3) of air for particulate matter as a norm for indoor air pollution.
In India, the average indoor air pollution is 375 ug/m3 and the prime contributor for this is burning of solid fuels, says a study done by Indian Council for Medical Research.
High indoor air pollution caught attention of policy-makers recently and environmentalists wanted the central government to prescribe norms on the lines of national ambient air norms.
The Central Pollution Control Board and public health research body, ICMR wanted the plan panel to agree for national indoor air pollution norms during the 12th five year plan.
The Planning Commission rejected the idea.
There is no dearth of Indian studies on adverse impact of indoor air pollution on health, especially that of women.
The Energy and Resources Institute in a recent study reported that 27.5% of under-five infant mortality in India is because of indoor air pollution.
Another study said that about 80 % of women in India are affected by indoor air pollution.