More than 3 million people died from indoor air pollution in 2020, but it has largely gone unnoticed by science and policy.


A common misconception about air pollution is that it causes smoky cities and chimney stacks. More than 3 million people died from indoor air pollution in 2020, but it has largely gone unnoticed by science and policy.

Christopher Whitty, Deborah Jenkins, and Alastair Lewis outline what scientists and decision-makers need to do to advance knowledge and lessen indoor air pollution in a Comment piece published in Nature.

A serious problem that has gone unaddressed for too long is indoor air pollution. It contains well-known substances like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide from burning coal, as well as nitrogen oxides from natural gas boilers.

It is not subject to the same air quality regulations as outdoor pollution, and advancement is hampered by a lack of knowledge of fundamental information.

Although indoor air pollution is a global issue, different regions, nations, and localities have different strategies for addressing it because of differences in building types, materials, climate, and energy sources, as well as social norms and cultural practices. Researchers must comprehend how these move around, interact with one another, and affect people’s health.

According to estimates, 700,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa passed away in 2019 due to indoor air pollution, many of them as a result of particles from indoor biomass stoves. There are cleaner alternatives, but their widespread use requires research-based interventions.

People with lower incomes frequently use gas or solid fuels for heating in richer or colder countries, or they reside in damp, mouldy homes. A win-win situation could result from targeted interventions that encourage the use of cleaner fuels, with the added benefit of accelerating the decarbonization process.

The World Health Organization‘s 2009 publication of its most recent guidelines on mould and dampness underscores the urgent need for policymakers to address indoor air pollution.

Decarbonization, building upgrades, and improvements in indoor air quality must be distributed fairly throughout society. The article by Whitty and colleagues is beneficial.

In the end, science needs to be better prepared to provide guidance on various tactics when needed. This kind of pollution needs to receive the same level of attention from the public as its outdoor counterpart in terms of public health concerns. This is one instance of a good intention that shouldn’t vanish into thin air.