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E. An Indoor Air Pollution Crisis

Narrator: This is Science Today. Although there has been a lot of national concern about urban air quality, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, say that on a global scale, the crisis caused by indoor air pollution in the third world is far more critical. Kirk Smith, professor and chair of environmental health sciences, compares the San Francisco Bay Area to that of his research site in rural Guatemala.

Smith: The best measure of air pollution level is the small particles that go into the deep lung. And in the San Francisco Bay Area, the typical particle level is about 26 micrograms per cubic meter. The national standard has been about 50 in these units, so we meet this standard most of the time.

Narrator: But comparatively, Smith says third world rural households are in a state of crisis.

Smith: In our Guatemalan households, a typical average during the day is 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter. And during the cooking period when the fire is hottest, smokiest, it might be 10,000. You can see that the levels are orders of magnitude higher.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.