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close this bookEnergy after Rio - Prospects and Challenges - Executive Summary (UNDP, 1997, 38 p.)
close this folder2. Energy and Major Global Issues
close this folder2.2 Energy and Environment
View the document2.2.1 Health
View the document2.2.2 Acidification
View the document2.2.3 Climate Change
View the document2.2.4 Land Degradation

2.2.1 Health

energy measures to contribute to the solution of under nutrition must be built into development strategies

The energy-health nexus arises because, without proper control, the production and use of energy can be accompanied by adverse impacts on the environment and, ultimately, on human health.

all megacities in developing countries have air pollution levels well above World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines

The combustion of fossil fuels is the largest source of atmospheric pollution involving sulphur and nitrogen oxides, heavy metals, unburned hydrocarbons, particulates and carbon monoxide, among other directly health-damaging pollutants. Such pollution arises, not only as a result of fossil fuel combustion in power plants and industry, but also from motor vehicles and households.

In urban environments, the transport sector is a major cause of the high levels of air pollution - gaseous pollutants and ultra-fine particulates emitted by petrol-powered vehicles, fine particulates emitted from poorly-maintained diesel engines, secondary (photochemical) pollutants such as ozone and the additional insidious pollutant, lead from traditional petrol use. Of these, suspended particulates are the major cause of concern to human health. All megacities in developing countries, and most industrialised countries, have air pollution levels well above the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. Furthermore, the situation is getting worse because of the high growth rates of vehicle fleets in the context of inadequate road infrastructure and growing urbanisation in many developing countries.

women and children have the highest exposures to indoor air pollution

Household use of biomass (and coal) results in greater human exposure to pollutants because emissions are high, ventilation is often poor, people are generally nearby at the time of use, and the affected populations are large. Significant health effects can thus be expected. The largest direct impacts would seem to be respiratory infections in children (an important class of disease) and chronic lung disease in women.

The energy-health nexus consists, therefore, of the fact that current energy utilisation patterns in rural households give rise to the problem of indoor air pollution affecting an increasing population and, in cities, to the growing problem of urban air pollution.