Indoor Air Pollution – Identifying the Silent Killers
According to a new study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), India is the second most polluted country in the world. And this pollution, both indoors and outdoors, has shortened the average life expectancy of Indians by more than 4 years, relative to what would have been WHO air quality guidelines. Devastating right?
If you think air pollution only means presence of smog, black smoke from vehicles and industrial air pollutants, think again! If you think you are safe indoors, think again!
Indoor pollution has silently invaded our homes and managed to go unnoticed for so long. Indoor air pollution can be as dangerous, sometimes even more than outdoor air pollution, as indicated by scientific evidences. And since most people spend over 90 percent of their time indoors, it is a major health risk that we have to deal with everyday.
In addition, people who may have had repeated or long term exposure to indoor air pollutants are often most vulnerable to its effects. Children, elderly, and chronically ill, especially those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease are at a greater risk. Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced immediately after exposure or possibly years later or after repeated exposure.
Air pollution is the silent killer that is alarmingly becoming the root cause of many chronic illnesses today. Let’s admit it that we have been living on a time bomb and its time to understand the issue to be able to use preventive measure and stay safe.
Common Causes of Air Pollution
Indoor air can be polluted with several types of pollutant that can easily fool us-
- Tobacco smoke, also known as the “secondhand smoke” is a mixture of gases generated by the burning of cigarette, pipe or cigar. This mixture has over 40 compounds that are known to cause cancer. Passive smoking, especially in children, causes a wide range of problems ranging from burning eyes, nose, and respiratory tract irritation to cancer, bronchitis, increased asthma attacks, decreased lung function and can also affect the cardiovascular system.
- Biological pollutants include molds, mildew, pollen from plants, mite, cockroaches, animal dander, fungi, parasites, and some bacteria. These are powerful common allergens and known to trigger allergies, infectious illnesses like influenza, asthma, lung diseases, among many others.
- Household products like products for cleaning, disinfecting and degreasing, paints, varnishes, furniture polish, glues, air fresheners, wood preservatives and certain cosmetics contain organic chemicals. These organic chemicals can be highly toxic and can cause problems ranging from short term irritations like headaches and dizziness to risk of long-term chronic diseases like cancer.
- Radon is a colourless, odorless and radio-active gas that is emitted naturally by the soil. Any building or house can radon have trapped inside. Exposure to elevated levels of Radon can cause lung cancer. And if you smoke a cigarette inside your home with high levels of radon, your risk of lung cancer increases significantly.
- Formaldehyde is a gas that is emitted in the homes mainly from building materials, smoking, household products, and the use of poorly ventilated, fuel-burning appliances, like gas stoves or heaters. It causes irritation to the eyes and throat and may trigger asthma attacks.
- Carbon Monoxide, along with nitrogen dioxide, is released due to incomplete combustion of carbon. In home the common culprits for its production are heating systems, indoor charcoal grills, gas kitchen stoves and water heaters. Carbon monoxide negatively affects the amount of oxygen delivered throughout the body. High concentration and prolonged exposure to Carbon monoxide can cause CO poisoning with symptoms like common flu including, fatigue, nausea, headache, irregular breathing and can also increased the risk of chest pain in people with
- Pesticide products like insecticides and disinfectants, that are commonly used indoors can pose health problems, if not used correctly. Over exposure and misapplication of pesticides can lead to common allergies like nausea and headaches to long-term damages to the liver and increased risk of cancer.
Identifying Air Quality Issues Indoors
The first and easy way to judge indoor air quality problem is analyzing if you have any of the above said health effects and symptom. If your condition improves when you move out of the home or only when you are exposed to certain household allergens, that it is a clear indicator of an issue.
The second and useful indicator is to identify potential sources of indoor air pollution. While the presence of these sources does not necessarily mean that you have a problem, but being aware of the environment around you helps you keep it under check and easily assess air quality. Check if your home is well-ventilated, and the products you are using are not toxic. Carpets, molds, dirt
and leakages are easy to fix concerns.
Third way to judge is to examine your activities and lifestyle. If you smoke indoors, it is time to stop doing it for your family’s good health. If you have pets, then keep them and the carpets clean.
Indoor air pollution is a serious health threat and can’t be ignored any longer.
Airtight modern buildings need to be properly ventilated to prevent to reduce the buildup of indoor air pollution. One of the easiest ways to improve your indoor air quality is to open your windows every day, i.e. if the air quality outside is better. You can also use plants that purify the air indoor by removing toxins such as formaldehyde and carbon monoxide.
The best and safe way is to use an efficient air purifier like Dr Charcoal non-electric air purifier. Dr Charcoal air purifier removes odor and pollutants effectively by simply using activated charcoal at its core and works well for over a year.
To know more about how Dr Charcoal works, read here.