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Dirty Energy Threatens Health of 2 Billion - Study

Date: 13-Sep-07
Country: UK
Author: Ben Hirschler

Dangerous levels of indoor air pollutants from badly
ventilated cooking fires are a common hazard, while lack of
electricity deprives many of the benefits of refrigeration.

Paul Wilkinson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical
Medicine said the world's richest populations use up to 20 times
more energy per head than those from poor countries, posing a
challenge to improve energy supply without pollution.

Writing in the Lancet medical journal, Wilkinson and
colleagues estimated 2.4 billion people worldwide were exposed
to pollution from inefficient burning of solid fuels like wood,
coal and dried cow dung.

This causes around 1.6 million premature deaths each year --
roughly double the level of deaths from air pollution in cities
-- and many more non-fatal cases of respiratory diseases.

At the same time, around 1.6 billion people worldwide have
no electricity.

"Paradoxically, the poor are using much less energy but they
are getting all the adverse effects," Wilkinson said in an
interview.

"We in the more developed countries have access to clean
energy and are using much more of it and are contributing to the
global problem of climate change, where the main adverse effects
are likely to fall, once again, on lower-income countries."

Global warming could trigger a range of health problems
including more extreme heatwaves, increases in water-borne and
insect-borne diseases, and threats to food supplies.

Lancet editor Richard Horton said the research showed that
the current debate on climate change and new energy sources was
unbalanced and too narrow.

"It neglects a far larger set of issues focussed on energy
and health," he said.

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