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.


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  


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.


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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Medical practice

Scientifically proven health risks of excessive mobile phone use

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” The excessive use of mobile phones can be harmful” , is no more a mere hypothesis. Recent studies are strongly in favour that it has many harmful effects in humans , even the potential to cause cancer.

If you have any doubts that mobile phones are anyways lesser  important for human survival than the discovery of fire or invention of wheel, here are facts.

There are more than 7 billion mobile phones in use which account for 96 phones for every 100 people on earth. In India , there are 1.18 billion active mobile phones, which means one phone each for  87% of population.  Hong Kong has 2.4 active mobile phones for every citizen in the country.

We do not need to debate on the usefulness of these devices. We all have experienced how  hard is to pass a single day away from it. From learning dancing to diving, from finding a doctor to a date, If there is anything you can define in word, mobile device can help you do it online. 

How long do  we use our mobile phones? 

 An average American spends more than four hours a days on mobile phones. An average India is slightly behind their american counterparts with little over 3 hours per day. The social media account for the largest share ( half) of the time spent on the mobile phones. Most of the mobile phones in use are smart phones with big screens. India alone has about 300 million active smart phones. 

Long duration of mobile phone usage has always been expected to cause problems. Now the scientific reports have began to pour in , showing that mobile phones usage indeed has side- effects associated with it. 

Most of the risk are benign but some of those are really serious.We start with the most scary one.


Brain tumors

When a person talks on phone ,  ear and brain are the organs near  to the  mobile hand set. These two organ are in close contact with the radio-frequency electromagnetic fields, emitted by mobile phones. 

Research experiments of mice reveal that radio-frequency electromagnetic fields from mobile phones, may produce  changes at  cellular level that increases the risk of cell death and cancer development in mice. What is more  is worrisome is the fact that  it can be transmitted to subsequent generations . 

Fortunately  a recent meta-analysis of the available data on the genetic damage  in human cells has failed to validate this hypothesis. 

 Scientist suggest that children are at even  greater increased risk of damage  .  

Children have  thinner skull bone which offers lesser protection to their brain from radio-frequency electromagnetic fields. They have  smaller head  so they  receive higher  dose of exposure per unit volume of brain tissue and have  increased brain conductivity.


The expert panel for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC),classify cell phones as  possibly carcinogenic (Group 2B) . Which means that   mobile phones  are as cancerous as  lead (also in catagory  Group 2B)

There are four types of brain tumors which are been found to have association with mobile phone usages

The current studies published in peer reviewed journal  support the hypothesis that long-term (over 10 years) use of mobile phones increases the risk of certain type of brain tumors, especially if the  exposure  have been predominantly on one side of the head . 

The studies also say that if you have started using the phone on a regular basis before you were 20 years old, than you have four times higher   risk of having glioma ( a type of brain tumor )than the normal population. 

The “lifetime exposure dose.”of the total mobile use is also important. If somebody has a total lifetime exposure of ≥ 1640 h, the person has the 2.55 times higher risk of  having acoustic neuroma ( another type of brain tumor) , than normal population, one side of use.

Next time , when you see your children talking on the phone, you know what to do next. 

Some useful links


In high- and middle-income countries , one in 7  couples have problem of infertility.  More over the semen quality males have been reported to be declining, for which researcher could not associate a cause. 

Recent research reports have reported that long term use mobile phones was associated with reduced sperm motility which is an important determinant if the sperms will be able to perform its role in conception. 

Now you have a good reason to take your phone out of your pant pocket and place it some where else , if you are a male and have any  reason to protect your sperms.

Mobile phone addiction

The mobile phones are not only getting cheaper day by day and these are also becoming more functional . Mobile phones are finding their usage in every facet of our social and professional life. 

No body gets addicted to the phone overnight. One often  starts  using the phone for  of routine use like shopping and social media interactions.

 Some of these become addicted  to shopping  or checking the social media updates  as a way to escape unpleasant feelings or boredom. The “high” experienced when shopping  or getting likes or comments  on social media  may become  strategy to cope up with the stress and discomforts of life. 

The process of addiction suggests a distinction between liking and wanting. People start the use  of phone because they  like the phone and its functionality but slowly the phone becomes something that they “want” . Later means that the person feels physically or psycologically uncomfortable if removed away from phone.

 The mobile phone addiction is  seen as  part of   technological addictions which  is defined as  “non-chemical (behavioral) addictions that involve human-machine interaction” .

Then people began to so called  the tell tale signs mobile phone-addiction.

1. Frequently checking the phone. An average American checks his/her phone 110 times a day.

2. Using phone in toilet,  before going to sleep, immediately getting up in morning, on weekend, even in shower.

3. Sleeping with the phone under the pillow or close to bed.

4.Feeling uneasy if phone is left at home.

5. Checking job related mails even when on vacations, etc.

Welcome to the club if you also have many of the above habits. 

links to few  helpful books 

Road traffic and other type of accidents

Unless you are in a driver less car, it is no rocket science to understand that ,a driver needs to pay attention to the driving task, to avoid accidents.

Even a momentary distraction of driver, away from road can lead to a crash. You can not have a better distraction than the mobile phones. A report by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, estimates that it contributes to 20 -30 percent of all road accidents

A recent research from Taiwan shows that

  1. drivers were less responsive when they were having a conversation over a handheld mobile phone.
  2. Female drivers were more adversely affected by mobile phone use than male drivers when faced with obstacles falling in front.
  3. Older drivers were more adversely affected by mobile phone use than younger drivers.


Insufficient sleep and sleep disturbances are common among youth and adolescents around the world. From from 2006 60 2011, number of adolescents in the United States , having the sleep less than eight hours a day rose from 45% to 60%. 

Ninty percent of recently punished studies   report  a significant association between screen time and reduced sleep duration and increased sleep problems. Studies report that use of mobile phone at bedtime reduce the total sleep time by 20-45 minutes.

Depression and other psychiatric disorders

Following psychiatric disorders are associated with the use of mobile phone

Headache, fatigue, irritability, dizziness, loss of appetite, sleepiness, sweating, difficulty of concentration, memory loss, depression, emotional instability, dermographism, tremorhallucinations and insomnia.

Mobile phone usage contributes to the obesity by following ways 

1. Children tend to eat more as they keep getting food related clues by the content viewed on the mobile phone.

2. Children tend to choose food which is rich in calories but poor in other  nutritious values , because of excessive advertisement of fast food. Some of the unhealthy food is outright promoted as healthy foods.

3.They tend to delegate more time in physically inactive work like screen viewing than physical activities like playing.

4. Changes in the sleep pattern may also have contribution in the over all issue of obesity in these children.

Concluding :  As it is scientifically established that excessive mobile phone usage is indeed harful, we should try to limitt its use, as is possible.

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