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Imagine this – you come home from a busy day at work. You are finally away from the traffic, the smoke, and the pollution. Relaxing in your home takes you away from the polluted environment outside. What if we told you that the real culprit is inside your home! Surprisingly, pollutants inside your home are just as harmful to you as the polluted air outside.
What is Indoor Air Pollution?
The air you breathe inside your home is a dangerous cocktail of irritants, carcinogens, harmful chemicals, neurotoxins, dust mites, allergens and bacteria. All this comes from your day-to-day use products at home. When the air inside your home is contaminated with such particles, it is called indoor air pollution.
Here are some of the most common types of indoor air pollution:
1. Mould Growth
Mould and Fungal spores are a significant contributor to indoor air pollution.
2. Increase in Carbon Monoxide
The use of charcoal as fuel or in heaters and furnaces can result in the formation of carbon monoxide, a gas that is toxic to humans.
3. Suspended Particulate Matter
Use of woodstoves, excessive incense, and heating sources like coal can cause smoke to accumulate in the air. The particulate matter in the smoke can get into your lungs when you breathe.
4. Volatile Organic Compounds(VOCs)
Hair spray, paint, glue, cleaning products, permanent markers, and upholstery can cause volatile organic compounds to be released into the air inside your home.
Let us study the sources that result in this form of pollution and also the grave dangers that indoor air pollution causes in more extensive detail.
What are Its Sources?
Here we have listed down 8 most significant sources of pollutants used by every household in daily lives:
- Carpets are a common household commodity that has a variety of harmful pollutants in it.
- They have a variety of Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC’s like Toluene, Formaldehyde and Benzene, which are certified carcinogens.
- Carpets also attract dust mites which have been correlated in some studies to be a cause for causing asthma in certain degrees.
- Candles are predominantly made out of paraffin wax, which is then treated with bleach for making it white.
- Paraffin is a by-product of petroleum extraction, making it release benzene and toluene on lighting.
These are classified as dangerous carcinogens.
- Add to this dioxins, lung-cancer causing acrolein, artificial dyes and synthetic fragrances, you get a ticking time bomb of respiratory diseases!
3. House Paint
- Most of the regular house paints that are found in the market have lead in it.
- Lead is a poison, which causes irreversible damage when exposed to on a long-term day to day basis.
- Moreover, the paints may contain VOC’s, releasing fumes that can aggravate the situation.
- This is a no-brainer.
- The smoke exhaled by smokers outside can pollute the interior of a house in the vicinity as well.
- The nicotine in the smoke is a well-known carcinogen.
5. Air Fresheners
- Most of the air fresheners that are available in the market today have a variety of ethylene-based glycol ethers.
- These components cause neurological as well as blood-related problems.
- They also contain phthalates, which are known to be an endocrine disruptor in babies.
6. Detergents and Cleaning Products
- Detergents and cleaning products contain a variety of chemicals that can potentially harm you on a long-term basis.
- For starters, most of the cleaning agents contain VOC’s such as aerosols, causing a variety of breathing problems.
- Many of the bleaches available in the market contain Chlorine-based compounds, which has the risk of creating Chlorine Gas.
Chlorine gas is extremely harmful to you, potentially fatal too.
- Most of the furniture that you buy today come with fire retardants coated on to it. Fire retardants, are chemicals that are extremely harmful to you and do not do a good job stopping at catching fire.
- They generally contain Pentabrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) and chlorinated tris (TDCCP), both extremely toxic carcinogens. They create harmful gases and soot when burnt, which causes death in a fire!
Asbestos is a leading cause of indoor air pollution. It is found in a variety of building materials, including components for walls, ceilings, floor tiles and so on. Asbestos has been linked to a variety of respiratory diseases, even lung cancer.
What are the Effects of Indoor Air Pollution?
The kind of problems that develop as indoor air pollution symptoms are numerous, as you may have read in the previous section.
Its effects on human health are profound and may have grave implications if you do not act to fix it.
These are some of the significant effects that indoor air pollution can have on your health:
Being exposed to a variety of pollutants that are carcinogens, like benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and nicotine you are at risk of developing cancer.
2. Asthma and Other Respiratory Diseases
With regular exposure to allergens and pollutants that irritate breathing, indoor air pollution may subject you to a variety of respiratory diseases, most commonly asthma, bronchitis and sinusitis.
3. Allergic Alveolitis
Frequent exposure to an environment of dust mites, moulds and insects in the environment gives rise to this condition – causing acute breathlessness as well as flu-like symptoms.
4. Reproductive Health Problems
Phthalates, Asbestos, Nicotine… the list goes on and on of the indoor air pollutants that can mess with your reproductive health, including poor semen quality, deteriorating testosterone levels and abnormal growth of genital organs.
5. Skin Irritations
A variety of skin irritations, including allergies and inflammation, is caused by formaldehyde, a major air pollutant inside homes.
6. Nervous System Issues
Being exposed to contaminants like lead and formaldehyde can cause a variety of nervous problems, including nervous system breakdowns and Alzheimer’s in the long run.
7. Cardiovascular Problems
Carbon Monoxide, a severe and fatal indoor air pollutant has been linked to being one of the primary causes of Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD), which may be potentially fatal.
8. Gastrointestinal and Renal Health Problems
A variety of gastrointestinal and renal problems also arise due to air pollutants, mainly because a variety of toxins present in the indoor atmosphere is swallowed along with being breathed in.
How to Get Rid of Indoor Air Pollutants?
You can follow some of the following steps to make sure that you can keep the air pollution inside your homes in check:
1. No Smoking
Do not allow anyone to smoke cigarettes or any nicotine devices inside your home.
2. Better Ventilation
Ventilate your house with larger windows for internal pollutants to escape as well as to let in cleaner air.
3. Good Quality Chimneys and Exhausts
Get good quality of electric chimneys and exhausts that can suck and remove the pollutants in the home atmosphere, making the air inside your home purer.
4. Keep a check on Mold Growth
Regulate the humidity of the house using quality humidifiers, so that it is between 40 to 50% to keep the moulds in check.
5. Say No to Scented Products
Refrain from chemically scented products, such as common detergents and deodorants, which produce VOC’s which badly pollute the indoor atmosphere.
6. Refrain from using Mothballs in Bathrooms
Mothballs contain Naphthalene, which is a chemical that sublimates to form gaseous pollutants in your house.
7. Wash New Clothes before Wearing
New fabrics are usually treated with chemicals that should be washed off to avoid indoor pollution.
8. Avoid Lead-free Paints
Paints having lead should be refrained from being used to paint your homes at all costs.
9. Avoid Cooking using Fossil Fuels
Household use of solid fuels, especially fossil fuels results in the maximum indoor pollution due to smoke and particulate matter. Using cleaner cooking mechanisms like induction cooking can avoid indoor air pollution from cooking.
10. Use Shoe Cleaners and Doormats
Some of the grave toxins and pollutants inside your home are from your shoes. Make sure to clean your shoes thoroughly before entering the house.
11. Use Vacuum Cleaners
Vacuum cleaners prove to be one of the most extremely effective indoor air pollution control measures. They help in removing particulate matter, dust mites and other pollutants.
12. Buy only Certified Carpets
Make sure your carpets and rugs in your home are certified to ensure they are not exposed to harmful chemical contaminants.
13. Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Installing Carbon Monoxide detectors can be one of the worthiest investments that you make towards indoor air pollution prevention and control.
14. Use Organic Detergents
You should switch to cleaner alternatives for detergents, which are completely organic or Hydrogen Peroxide.
15. Use Air Purifiers
Quality air purifiers should be installed inside your home, which removes polluted air from the indoor atmosphere and releases clean air inside.
16. Grow Plants
Nothing can avert indoor or outdoor pollution like growing plants, which are natural air purifiers.
17. Quality Air Filters
Using a good air filter ensures that the polluted air from outside does not come and pollute your household more.
18. Remove Dust Regularly
Dust needs to be removed regularly to make sure dust allergies are kept in check.
Here are answers to some questions related to indoor air pollution
1. What Type of Air Cleaners Can be Used to Fight Indoor Air Contaminants?
The following types of air cleaners are currently available in the market, and each one is effective in their respective ways:
- High-Efficiency Particulate Air or HEPA Air Cleaners work on a mechanical filtration model.
- Electrostatic Air Cleaners can help in removing charged pollutants and collecting them on a plate.
- Ultraviolet Light Germicidal Irradiation Air Cleaners or UVGI removes moulds, mildew, dust mites and other biological pollutants using UV rays.
- Gas phase Carbon Activated Filters are incredibly useful in removing smoke and particulate matter.
2. Does AC Reduce Indoor Air Pollution?
No, AC does not help in reducing or curbing indoor air pollution. You have to use an air purifier to purify the air in your indoor atmosphere.