Indoor Air Pollution – Sources and Tips to Deal with It
Imagine this – you come home from a busy day at work. You are finally away from the traffic, the smoke, and the noise outside. Relaxing in your home may make you feel like you’re away from the polluted environment outside, and feels like bliss after a long day. What if we told you that the real culprit is inside your home! Surprisingly, pollutants inside your home are just as harmful 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. This can affect people of all ages, and in serious cases, even cause massive health issues and developmental disorders, especially in babies. Here are some of the common indoor air pollutants:
1. Mould Growth
Mould and fungal spores, especially during the monsoon season, 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, upholstery, and household use of solid fuels can cause volatile organic compounds to be released into the air inside your home.
Let us study the sources that cause indoor air pollution and also the grave dangers that indoor air pollution possesses in more extensive detail.
What Are Its Sources?
Here we have listed down 8 most significant indoor air pollution causes present in almost every household.
Carpets are a common household commodity that have a variety of harmful pollutants in them. They contain 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 established in some studies to be a cause of asthma.
Candles are predominantly made out of paraffin wax, which is then treated with bleach to make it white. Paraffin is a by-product of petroleum, making it release benzene and toluene on lighting, which are dangerous carcinogens. Add to this dioxins, lung-cancer causing acrolein, artificial dyes and synthetic fragrances, and you have 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 that causes irreversible damage when exposed to it 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 interiors 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. Air fresheners also contain phthalates, an endocrine disruptor in babies, which interfere with hormone secretion in the body and affect development.
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 have the risk of creating chlorine g. Chlorine gas is extremely harmful, even being potentially fatal.
Most of the furniture that you buy today comes with fire retardants coated on to it, to prevent fires. Fire retardants are essentially chemicals that are extremely harmful have proven to be ineffective in preventing fires, too. They generally contain pentabrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) and chlorinated tris (TDCCP), both extremely toxic carcinogens that create poisonous gases and soot when burnt, causing health problems, and even death.
Asbestos is the 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?
Indoor air pollution has profound effects on human health. It can have grave implications in the long run, if you notice indoor air pollution symptoms and do not act to fix it. These are some of the significant effects of indoor air pollution on your health.
Being exposed to a variety of carcinogens, like benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and nicotine increase your risk of developing cancer.
2. Asthma and Other Respiratory Diseases
With regular exposure to allergens and pollutants that hamper 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, mould 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 of indoor air pollutants goes on. These can mess with your reproductive health, including causing 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 disease in the long run.
7. Cardiovascular Problems
Carbon monoxide, a severe and fatal indoor air pollutant, is one of the primary causes of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is 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 and, if possible, opt for larger windows, so the internal pollutants can escape and also let in cleaner air and sunlight.
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 Mould Growth
Regulate the humidity in the house by using quality humidifiers, so that it is between 40 to 50% to keep any mould and fungus growth in check.
5. Say No to Scented Products
Refrain from chemically scented products, such as common detergents, incense sticks, and deodorants, which produce VOC’s that 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. Avoid using it as much as possible.
7. Wash New Clothes Before Wearing
New fabrics are usually treated with chemicals that should be washed off before wearing the clothes to avoid indoor pollution.
8. Avoid Lead-Free Paints
Refrain from using paints that contain lead to paint the walls in your home. This can alone make a huge difference.
9. Avoid Cooking Using Fossil Fuels
Household use of solid fuels, especially fossil fuels, results in 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, which carry in pollutants from outside. Make sure to clean your shoes thoroughly before entering the house or keep your shoe stand outside the house.
11. Use Vacuum Cleaners
Vacuum cleaners prove to be one of the most 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 for low emission 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 organic and better for your home (and clothes.)
15. Use Air Purifiers
Quality air purifiers, which remove polluted air from the indoor atmosphere and release clean air inside, should be installed inside your home,
16. Grow Plants
Nothing can avert indoor or outdoor pollution like growing plants, which are natural air purifiers. Keep more indoor plants in your home to breathe better air inside.
17. Remove Dust Regularly
Dust needs to be removed regularly to make sure dust allergies are kept in check. Use a mask while dusting the house, so you don’t breathe in any pollutants.
18. Vacuum Your House Regularly
Vacuuming the house may not be a regular practice in many households, but this is an effective way to control the presence of air pollutants inside. Vacuum your upholstery, carpets, and more on a regular basis to get rid of dust and dirt.
19. Air Out the Bathrooms
Bathrooms are usually most exposed to moisture due to water and steam, which causes the growth of mould and fungus. Air out your bathrooms regularly and keep them as dry as possible throughout the day.
20. Use Beauty Products Sparingly
While the use of beauty products cannot always be avoided, you can instead use them in well-ventilated areas of the house. Use hairsprays, perfumes, nail paint remover, etc., in a ventilated room or near a window.
Here are answers to some frequently asked 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 its own way.
- High-Efficiency Particulate Air or HEPA Air Cleaners work on a mechanical filtration model to purify the air.
- 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 Air Conditioning Reduce Indoor Air Pollution?
No, an AC will not help in indoor air pollution prevention or reduction. You have to use an air purifier to purify the air in your indoor atmosphere.
As you can see, indoor air pollution is very real, and equally harmful as outdoor air pollution. Many of the things we use or do at home can slowly contribute to polluting the air inside, causing all kinds of health issues. Use the above information and indoor air pollution control measures to understand how indoor air pollution works and how you can purify the air in your home with some simple steps.