Calling for the creation of an international database on air pollution and its health effects, the World Health Organization said this week that the people most at risk from air pollution don’t live in the industrial world but in developing countries. As many as 1 billion people around the world are exposed regularly to pollution levels up to 100 times higher than those recommended by the WHO. Women and children in developing countries are most vulnerable, according to the agency, because they spend much of their time in smoky kitchens, where fires are typically set using wood, coal, crop wastes, or dung. The WHO says that a “a deadly combination of solid fuel, inefficient stoves and poor ventilation triggers off a complex mix of health-damaging pollutants.” For example, the WHO says that in India, where about 80 percent of homes use such fuels, some 500,000 children die a year from acute respiratory infections.

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