Scientific interest in indoor pollution has been increasing since the second half of the 1980s. Growing scientific evidence has shown that because people generally spend the majority of their time indoors, indoor pollution plays a significant role in affecting health and is thus an important health issue. Indoor environments include dwellings, workplaces, schools and day care centres, bars, discotheques and vehicles. Common indoor pollutants are environmental tobacco smoke, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and biological allergens. In developing countries, relevant sources of indoor pollution include biomass and coal burning for cooking and heating. Concentrations of these pollutants can be many times higher indoors than outdoors. Indoor air pollution may increase the risk of irritation phenomena, allergic sensitisation, acute and chronic respiratory disorders and lung function impairment. Recent conservative estimates have shown that 1.5-2 million deaths per year worldwide could be attributed to indoor air pollution. Approximately 1 million of these deaths occur in children aged under 5 years due to acute respiratory infections, and significant proportions of deaths occur due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer in women. Today, indoor air pollution ranks tenth among preventable risk factors contributing to the global burden of disease. Further research is necessary to better evaluate the respiratory health effects of indoor pollution and to implement protective programmes for public health.