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Urban and rural exposure to indoor air pollution from domestic biomass and coal burning across China

Heidi Elizabeth Staff Mestl, Kristin Aunan, Hans Martin Seip, Shuxiao Wang, Yu Zhao, Daisheng Zhang

Although indoor air pollution (IAP) from solid fuel use in the households of the developing countries is estimated to be one of the main health risks worldwide, there is little knowledge of the actual exposure experienced by large populations. We have developed a method to estimate exposure to PM10 from IAP for large populations, applied to different demographic groups in China. On a national basis we find that 80%–90% of exposure in the rural population results from IAP. For the urban population the contribution is somewhat lower, about 50%–60%. Average exposure is estimated at 340 μg/m3 (SD 55) in southern cities, and 440 μg/m3 (SD 40) in northern cities. For the rural population we find average exposure to be 750 μg/m3 (SD 100) and 680 μg/m3 (SD 65) in the south and north respectively. Quite surprisingly our results indicate that the heavily polluted northern provinces, largely dependent on coal and believed to have the population with the largest exposure burden, turn out to have medium exposure when IAP is included. We find that the largest exposure burden is in counties relying heavily on biomass, and that there are only small gender differences in exposure.

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