More than 80% of world population are exposed to harmful air pollution 

- More than 80% of the world’s population is currently exposed to ambient concentrations of fine particulate matter above the WHO Air Quality Guideline value, while more than 30% also exceed the WHO Interim Target-Tier 1 level.

- 3.3 billion people were estimated to use solid fuel for cooking in 2005 in Sub Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Pacific Asia, leading to high exposure to indoor air pollution.

- Global health impacts from outdoor air pollution in 2005 are estimated at 2.7 million annual deaths and 23 million annual disability adjusted life years (DALYs).

- 2.1 million annual deaths and 41.6 million annual DALYs lost due to solid fuel use and related indoor smoke in developing countries. 

Abstract: Air pollution is increasingly recognized as a significant contributor to global health outcomes. A methodological framework for evaluating the global health-related outcomes of outdoor and indoor (household) air pollution is presented and validated for the year 2005.

Ambient concentrations of PM2.5 are estimated with a combination of energy and atmospheric models, with detailed representation of urban and rural spatial exposures. Populations dependent on solid fuels are established with household survey data. Health impacts for outdoor and household air pollution are independently calculated using the fractions of disease that can be attributed to ambient air pollution exposure and solid fuel use.

Estimated ambient pollution concentrations indicate that more than 80% of the population exceeds the WHO Air Quality Guidelines in 2005. In addition, 3.26 billion people were found to use solid fuel for cooking in three regions of Sub Saharan Africa, South Asia and Pacific Asia in 2005. Outdoor air pollution results in 2.7 million deaths or 23 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs) while household air pollution from solid fuel use and related indoor smoke results in 2.1 million deaths or 41.6 million DALYs. The higher morbidity from household air pollution can be attributed to children below the age of 5 in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. The burden of disease from air pollution is found to be significant, thus indicating the importance of policy interventions.


Rao, S., Chirkov, V., Dentener, F., Van Dingenen, R., Pachauri, S., Purohit, P., Amann, M., Heyes, C., Kinney, P., Kolp, P., Klimont, Z., Riahi, K., Schoepp, W: Environmental Modeling and Methods for Estimation of the Global Health Impacts of Air Pollution, Environmental Modeling & Assessment In press, DOI 10.1007/s10666-012-9317-3.

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Last edited: 22 July 2013


Pallav Purohit

Research Scholar

Pollution Management Research Group

Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 336

Wolfgang Schöpp

Guest Senior Research Scholar

Pollution Management Research Group

Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 309

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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