Light for Life -- Identifying and reducing health and safety impacts of fuel-based lighting

The United Nations Environment Programme's en.Lighten initiative commissioned me to expand earlier work on the adverse health impacts associated with fuel-based lighting.  The final product has just been released.  Following is a brief summary of the report, which can be downloaded in full here.


On top of the economic inequities associated with fuel-based lighting are a host of health-related risks and impacts.

The 1.3 billion people around the world who earn approximately one dollar per day pay a much higher percentage of their income for low-grade and polluting fuel-based illumination than people who have regular access to electric lighting. This inequity is compounded by adverse health and safety issues including: burns, indoor air pollution, poisoning due to ingestion of kerosene fuel by children, compromised visual health, maternal health issues, and reduced service in health facilities illuminated solely or sporadically with fuel-based lighting.

Synthesis of information found in 112 data sources from 33 countries shows that very significant impacts are pervasive.

These adverse impacts of fuel-based lighting disproportionately impact women and children. The consequences are tragic.  This study reviews a wide range of information sources, from news stories, reports from the development community and peer-reviewed medical literature.

Energy efficient, off-grid electric lighting solutions offer the most promising and scalable means to eliminate adverse health outcomes associated with fuel-based lighting, while lowering the costs and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

This study provides evidence that eliminating kerosene indeed reduces adverse health symptoms, and suggests next steps and policy options to improve the lives of people who depend on off-grid lighting services. Policies and programs seeking the greatest possible benefit should target the most impacted geographical and demographic user groups. Improved lighting technologies for use by women and children will yield particularly significant health benefits. Examples include: improved illumination in healthcare facilities and safe and efficient lighting systems distributed and promoted where housing is dense and poorly defended from fire as well as where fuel adulteration is common.

Read the full report here.

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