Household air pollution: a call for studies into biomarkers of exposure and predictors of respiratory disease

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2013 May 1;304(9):L571-8. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00416.2012. Epub 2013 Mar 1.


Household air pollution (HAP) from indoor burning of biomass or coal is a leading global cause of morbidity and mortality, mostly due to its association with acute respiratory infection in children and chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in adults. Interventions that have significantly reduced exposure to HAP improve health outcomes and may reduce mortality. However, we lack robust, specific, and field-ready biomarkers to identify populations at greatest risk and to monitor the effectiveness of interventions. New scientific approaches are urgently needed to develop biomarkers of human exposure that accurately reflect exposure or effect. In this Perspective, we describe the global need for such biomarkers, the aims of biomarker development, and the state of development of tests that have the potential for rapid transition from laboratory bench to field use.

Keywords: air pollution; biomarkers; exposure; global health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Anisoles / analysis
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis
  • Carboxyhemoglobin / analysis
  • DNA Methylation
  • Developing Countries
  • Fires
  • Global Health
  • Glucose / analogs & derivatives
  • Glucose / analysis
  • Humans
  • Isoprostanes / analysis
  • Malondialdehyde / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / etiology


  • Anisoles
  • Biomarkers
  • Isoprostanes
  • Particulate Matter
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Malondialdehyde
  • 1,6-anhydro-beta-glucopyranose
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Carboxyhemoglobin
  • Glucose