Smoke - indoor air pollution

The killer in the kitchen

Nearly four million people die each year as a result of inhaling lethal smoke from kitchen stoves and fires. Most of these deaths are a result of respiratory infections. Most victims are women and children under five.

More than three billion people worldwide depend on fuels such as wood, dung and coal to meet their basic energy needs of cooking, boiling water and heating.

Burning these fuels on rudimentary stoves or three stone fires creates a dangerous cocktail of pollutants. It is the poor who rely on the lowest grades of fuel and have the least access to clean energy.

  • 3 billion people still cook on open fires using wood, animal dung, crop waste or coal as fuel
  • Each year 4.3 million people die prematurely from diseases caused by inhaling smoke from indoor fires
  • Half the deaths from pneumonia of children under five are attributed to indoor air pollution
  • Over 1 million people die each year from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), again attributed to exposure to indoor air pollution

Statistics from the World Health Organization

Practical Action have been involved in developing appropriate and affordable household cooking stove technologies for over 20 years in many countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, in many areas of stove development and implementation.

Our experience and technical skills on this issue ranges from technology development, through to market support, awareness raising and gender and health issues in both urban and rural areas.

Scaling up to save lives

Practical Action works directly with those affected by indoor smoke to cut indoor air pollution and improve health. We also work with governments and other agencies to scale up this approach beyond our own projects.

Recently the Nepali government announced that all homes in Nepal would be smoke-free by 2017. And the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves aims to provide 100 million clean-burning stoves to villages in Africa, Asia and South America by 2020.

Practical Action continue to promote sustainable solutions to energy access and indoor air pollution, and move towards eradicating the killer in the kitchen.

Around the world, Practical Action's simple solutions are making a real impact on people's health and lives.

The difference a simple technology can make

Smoke and its impact on people's lives

Smoke from cooking in the home causes the deaths of over 2 million mainly women and children every year. Writer and broadcaster Adam Hart-Davis visited Kenya to see the problem for himself, and to raise awareness of one of the biggest killers in the developing world.

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Indoor air pollution - the biggest child killer in Nepal

In Nepal, indoor air pollution results causes the premature death of 8,700 people annually. In this video, see the effects of smoke in the home - and the impact of some practical solutions.

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The killer in Mika's home

Mika is just 7 months old, and is battling pneumonia. Living with her family in the bitterly cold foothills of the Himalaya mountains, they are unaware that the fire they rely on to keep warm, cook food and give light, is also filling Mika's little lungs with deadly smoke.

Every minute of every day indoor smoke takes the life of a child like Mika. Thousands of families in Nepal are forced to put the lives of their children at risk as they so desperately depend on their fires to survive. But without a fire, the outcome for children like Mika would be just as bleak.

But you could help to save the lives of children like Mika and give them back their futures with a very simple solution. A smoke hood and chimney gives families cleaner air to breathe and costs £44 - that's just £3.67 a month for one year. Please, a regular gift from you could help protect Mika with this life saving technology.

Practical Answers

Practical Action's technical information service, Practical Answers, provides free information on many aspects of household energy, improved stoves and ways to reduce indoor air pollution while cooking. Below are a few documents from our extensive free online library on stoves, ovens and reducing indoor air pollution.

Health smoke hoods - free online tool

Practical Action, in conjunction with Bosch Siemens, have produced an online tool that will produce a downloadable technical brief for any individual or organization intending to implement projects to alleviate indoor air pollution.

Heathy Smoke Hoods online toolkit

Smoke, health and household energy

Two books, free to download, describe a research project done by Practical Action in Sudan, Kenya and Nepal, working with communities to identify, install and monitor sustainable technologies to alleviate smoke.

Smoke, health and household energy

The purpose of this research project is to support large numbers of people living in poverty, especially women and children, to reduce the major health risks caused by smoke from kitchen fires, through awareness of the dangers of smoke and interventions to alleviate it.

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Practical Action project work

You can read more about some of our project work on reducing the impact of indoor air pollution.

Healthy homes

This programme aims to improve health conditions of women and children living within poor households by improving indoor air quality, access to clean household energy, household sanitation, and providing safe drinking water. Interventions focus on integrated service approach considering multiple ...

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External links

Practical Action is a member of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and HEDON – the Household Energy Network.

More links on research and efforts to reduce indoor air pollution.


Past reports on smoke and indoor air pollution from Practical Action, including the major report Smoke: the Killer in the Kitchen.

Smoke: the Killer in the Kitchen

Smoke in the home from cooking on wood, dung and crop waste kills nearly one million children a year. In its report, Smoke: the Killer in the Kitchen, published in 2004, Practical Action called for global action to save the lives of two million men, women and children lost each year to lethal levels of household smoke.

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Indoor air pollution: key questions answered

Answers to frequently asked questions on indoor air pollution, smoke and health.

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Indoor air pollution and smoke hoods: lessons from Nepal

An archive of our webinar in partnership with Engineering for Change. This webinar looks at some lessons from the Nepal pilot project, and the nature of the private/ public/ non-profit relationship that has helped it to come about.

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