Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: household energy

November 25, 2009 · 0 comments

The Lancet, 25 November 2009doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61713

Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: household energy

Dr Paul Wilkinson FRCP, Prof Kirk R Smith PhD, Prof Michael Davies PhD, Heather Adair BS , Prof Ben G Armstrong PhD , Mark Barrett PhD, Nigel Bruce PhD, Prof Andy Haines FMedSci, Ian Hamilton MSc, Prof Tadj Oreszczyn PhD, Ian Ridley PhD, Cathryn Tonne ScD, Zaid Chalabi PhD

Energy used in dwellings is an important target for actions to avert climate change. Properly designed and implemented, such actions could have major co-benefits for public health. To investigate, we examined the effect of hypothetical strategies to improve energy efficiency in UK housing stock and to introduce 150 million low-emission household cookstoves in India.

Methods similar to those of WHO’s Comparative Risk Assessment exercise were applied to assess the effect on health that changes in the indoor environment could have. For UK housing, the magnitude and even direction of the changes in health depended on details of the intervention, but interventions were generally beneficial for health. For a strategy of combined fabric, ventilation, fuel switching, and behavioural changes, we estimated 850 fewer disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), and a saving of 0·6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), per million population in 1 year (on the basis of calculations comparing the health of the 2010 population with and without the specified outcome measures).

The cookstove programme in India showed substantial benefits for acute lower respiratory infection in children, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and ischaemic heart disease. Calculated on a similar basis to the UK case study, the avoided burden of these outcomes was estimated to be 12 500 fewer DALYs and a saving of 0·1—0·2 megatonnes CO2-equivalent per million population in 1 year, mostly in short-lived greenhouse pollutants. Household energy interventions have potential for important co-benefits in pursuit of health and climate goals.

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