HEALTH RISK

Indoor Air Pollution: How to protect your family from its effects ?

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Indoor air pollution is important cause of various breathing problems like asthma , bronchitis and even cancer.  Some important tips to protect your family from adverse effects of air pollution.

Indoor air pollution is the degradation of indoor air quality by harmful chemicals and other materials. Indoor air pollution is far  worse than outdoor air pollution, because enclosed spaces enable potential pollutants to build up more than open spaces.Indoor air pollution is  ranked third among risk factors in the report of the Global Burden of Disease.

The principal sources of indoor air pollution are:

1. Combustion of fuel  in kitchen:

Anything that is burned in kitchen ( coal, lignite, or charcoal; kerosene; liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) contributes to indoor pollution.

The incomplete combustion products of biomass fuels include suspended particulate matter, carbon monoxide, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, polyorganic matter, formaldehyde, etc., which have adverse effects on health.

Studies have shown that indoor air is also polluted when LPG is used in cooking with following reported levels of pollutants.

 

2. Second hand smoking ( passive smoking)

It means that you are inhaling smoke when someone else is smoking in your vicinity.

 It contains 200 known poisons and 43 carcinogens.

3. Fumes from paraffin wax candles.

A study done by the South Carolina State University found that candles made of paraffin wax release toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene that can quickly build up to unhealthy level in enclosed areas

 

4.volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

 

A. Building material,

A major class of indoor pollutants are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals such as formaldehyde that can evaporate under normal atmospheric conditions. VOCs can be emitted into indoor air from a variety of sources. Pollutants such as aldehydes, volatile, and semivolatile organic compounds are produced from resins, waxes, polishing materials, cosmetics, and binders.

  • Building materials,
  • Flooring,
  • Composite wood products,
  • Adhesives.

B. Chlorine by-products

chloramines and trihalomethanes are formed when chlorine, present in clorinated water reacts with organic matter like skin, hair and bacteria. Inhaling these chemicals can irritate and cause damages to the respiratory system, causing bronchitis or asthama in children.

C. Synthetic fragrances, perfumes and deodorizers.

Substances used in fragrances, perfumes and deodorizers are largely unregulated and are not monitored by the government. Some of the highly volatile and semi-volatile chemicals used have been found to be toxic and are capable of causing skin irritation, allergic reaction, cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and reproductive disorders.

D. Dry cleaned clothes 

These cloths contains trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, which are highly toxic substances that are known to cause cancer.

E. Minute particles and gases from office machines and stationery

Copiers, laser printers, correction fluid, graphics and craft materials and others can also be a source of ultra-fine particles and VOCs that can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing serious respiratory problems.

F. Radon gas from kitchen counter top, attic and basement.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America according to the US National Cancer Institute.

Bioaerosols.

biological pollutants like dust mites, molds, pollen, and infectious agents produced in stagnant water, mattresses, carpets, and humidifiers too pollute indoor air.

A. Dust

Which can trigger respiratory allergies in people who are sensitive to them.

B. Pet dander.

Hairs and dried skins from animals can also be sources of respiratory irritants.

C. Carpets and upholstery

Some of these use formaldehyde as permanent adhesive. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. It is classified as a known human carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

5. Effects of Indoor Air Pollution on Health

There are 2 million premature deaths per year due to  Indoor air pollution.The most affected groups are women and younger children, as they spend maximum time at home. Common associated diseases are

  • Pneumonia,
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
  • Lung cancer.

The other diseases found to be associated with indoor air pollution are 

6. How to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

Fortunately, indoor air pollution is much more manageable than the air outside your home. Here are some simple steps you can do to cut down on your exposure to air pollutants that could trigger averse health effects. The investment in these measures will ensure a good health of your family which is of immense value.

A. Air quality monitoring

For continuously measuring 

  • Carbon dioxide

  • Temperature

  • Relative humidity

 

 These Monitors lets you test CO2 levels which can reveal if your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system is operating properly. High CO2 levels indicate inadequate or closed return air ducts. Low CO2 levels indicate too much fresh air and wasted heating or cooling energy. It also has a digital thermometer and relative humidity indicator. 

b. For continuously measuring 

  • Count of particles that have diameter equal to 1.0 micron (PM 1) 

  • Count of particles that have diameter equal to 2.5 micron (PM 2.5)

  • Count of particles that have diameter equal to 10 micron (PM 10)

  • Formaldehyde (HCHO)

  • Total Volatile Organic Compounds TVOC 

This monitor not only gives accurate estimates of suspended particles in indoor environment but also other toxic products like Formaldehyde (HCHO) and Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC ). Interior particulate pollution are known to be associated with  asthma and allergy symptoms. These are slightly expensive than CO2 levels monitors but offers distinct advantages in disclosing the accurate levels of toxic and cancerous substances in domestic envoirnment.

B. Use a vacuum cleaner with an efficient filter.

Using a vacuum cleaner that comes with high-efficiency small particle filters has been shown to significantly reduce interior particulate pollution and subsequently, asthma and allergy symptoms. 

Vacuum cleaners with cartridge mechanism which enable wet and dry vacuuming without filter replacement should be preferred.

C. and exhaust fans for indoor space

 The ventilation of the indoor spaces like kitchen, attic and basement, to let fresh air circulates freely and frequently, is utmost important. All these spaces must have the exhaust devices installed for adequate ventilation.

C. Use an air purifier or air filter 

Despite taking the measures above, air contaminants and allergens may still be introduced into your living environment by wind, breeze, pets, humans and equipment. That’s when the use of an air cleaner can be useful to reduce the levels of air pollutants in enclosed spaces. If you can help it, install an air filter in every room to improve air-cleaning efficiency. HEPA filters with or without ionizers are the most effective ways to keep the environment clean. 

HEPA Filter 

 Activated Carbon  

Ionizers

D. Keep humidity under control.

Excessive moisture in the air encourages the growth of biological pollutants, like mold, mildew and fungus, in areas like basements and bathrooms that could trigger allergies. These are highly recommended for areas which are traditionally known to have high humidity , like coastal areas and high rainfall prone area.

Dehumidifiers

E. Replace toxin-releasing furniture or interior decoration materials

if you’re refurbishing your home or office, while it is tempting to buy cheaper products to save costs, think of the long-term costs that you and other occupants may be paying ten years down the road.

F. Natural alternatives such as diluted essential oils.

If you use herbicides or pesticides on your plants, look for natural pest control products that are less harmful and will biodegrade much more quickly such as neem oil.

Scientific studies report that most individuals (81%) say that they “learned something new” regarding their health, the last time they went online. The majority (80%) of people found the information through a search engine as reliable.

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