Household air pollution as a silent killer: women’s status and solid fuel use in developing nations

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11111-017-0269-z

Cite this article as:
Austin, K.F. & Mejia, M.T. Popul Environ (2017). doi:10.1007/s11111-017-0269-z


Household air pollution is a leading cause of death globally, as 4.3 million people die prematurely each year from illness attributable to use of solid fuels (WHO 2016a). Many studies contend that gender inequalities are likely to greatly shape the global distribution of solid fuel use and its negative health consequences. We conduct an analysis of 91 developing nations using structural equation models on the prevalence of female indoor air pollution deaths among women and the ratio of female to male indoor air pollution deaths. The results illustrate that women’s status is a robust predictor of solid fuel use, and that improved women’s status also correlates directly with lower female to male indoor air pollution deaths ratios and indirectly with reduced female death prevalence through lower solid fuel dependence. Women’s status additionally mediates the effects of some other notable predictors, such as economic development. Overall, the results bring attention to a “silent killer” in less-developed nations and illustrate that greater female empowerment is an important avenue in addressing this global pandemic.


Gender Global health Indoor air pollution Solid fuels Women’s health 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Health, Medicine and SocietyLehigh UniversityBethlehemUSA

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