In 2008, after working closely with the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air (PCIA) since its inception in 2002, the U.S. Department of State became a partner in the organization. The U.S. Department of State joins over 200 other partners in working to improve health, livelihood and quality of life by reducing exposure to air pollution from household energy use. Three other U.S. government agencies are also partners: the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
Indoor air pollution is a critical environmental health issue.
Over 3 billion people, more than half of the world’s population, still use solid fuels for indoor cooking and heating. The smoke contains harmful pollutants including carbon monoxide and small particles, and can result in indoor pollution levels 20 to 100 times greater than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guidelines, leading to a variety of respiratory and other diseases.
As a result, indoor air pollution is the fourth largest threat to health in developing countries after malnutrition, unsafe sex practices and lack of clean water, and is responsible for 2.7% of the global burden of disease. According to the WHO, 1.5 million people die prematurely each year as a result of breathing unsafe levels of smoke indoors. Indoor air pollution more than doubles a child’s risk of serious respiratory infection and can contribute to pregnancy complications such as stillbirth and low birth weight. Cleaner and more efficient household energy production would reduce the negative health impacts of indoor air pollution and reduce carbon emissions, deforestation, and erosion. It would also enable women and children, who spend up to 4 hours a day gathering fuel in some countries, to spend more time attending school or engaging in other productive activities.
Since 2002, PCIA has helped 7.6 million people in 1.4 million households cook and heat their homes more safely, and hopes to reach an additional 6 million households by 2010. PCIA’s work can be divided into four areas: confronting social and behavioral barriers, developing local markets, improving technology, and monitoring impacts of interventions. The Partnership’s approach focuses on capacity building, technical assistance, project implementation, and increasing awareness in order to enact sustainable, lasting change.
The Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science (OES) works closely with PCIA, has worked with U.S. Embassies in high-burden countries to encourage host governments to join the Partnership. OES will continue to publicize the problem of indoor air pollution among policy makers in bilateral and multilateral discussions, and encourage governments to join PCIA.