Pakistan Institute of Development Economics

Unveiling the Effects of Indoor Air Pollution on Health of Rural Women in Pakistan
Publication Year : 2020

About 3 billion people are relying on polluting sources of energy in developing countries. These polluting sources are responsible for 4 million deaths and 2.7 percent of the global burden of disease. Ninety-four percent of households in rural areas of Pakistan are using solid biomass for cooking and heating. Being mainly involved in cooking, rural women are highly vulnerable to hazardous pollutants. The extant literature has rarely explored the impact of indoor air pollution on women health in Pakistan. The present study unveils the effect of polluting fuel burning on symptoms of acute upper respiratory infections such as sore throat, cough, congestion, breathing difficulties, and fatigue. A household survey was conducted by employing a multi-stage sampling technique to collect data from 252 households from Abbottabad and Haripur districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The diversification in domestic tasks, number of windows in kitchen and use of mask in close kitchen have negative and significant correlation with respiratory health symptoms. However, solid fuels, exposure to pollution, and close kitchen are found to have positive and significant impacts on respiratory health symptoms. The results of standardized regression model reveal that use of polluting energy sources in close kitchen are contributing more than twice to respiratory symptoms than in open kitchen. Exposure to pollution, solid fuels and close kitchen are major culprits for respiratory health symptoms among rural women responsible for kitchen work. The study concludes that awareness campaigns on the benefits of using clean energy sources, importance of windows and masks in close kitchen and open kitchen among rural women may help to significantly reduce the burden of respiratory health problems.