Indoor air quality is worsening fast!
It is important that you learn the reasons behind indoor air pollution.
We have a perception that we are safe indoors. However, our homes and offices are loaded with
indoor air pollutants. These indoor pollutants damage the physical, chemical, and biological air
quality of our house, workspace, and any closed space. These elements pose a grave danger to our
health. Diseases like asthma, allergies, chronic respiratory disorders are aggravated with indoor air
pollutants. Experts claim that indoor air pollution is two to five times worse than outdoor air
pollution. The reason is simple- most of us spend the maximum time of our day indoors, either at
home or in the office. So, the duration of exposure to a trapped and concentrated polluted mass of
air is longer. We usually don’t see it, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect our health.
Here are a few reasons which aggravate indoor air pollution:
1. Dampness: The Catalyst For Microbial Growth
The mother of all causes, dampness is one of the most serious contributors to indoor air pollution.
Excess moisture leads to stagnant air in the house leading to dampness, which, in return, increases
microbes in the air. These microbes are significant contributors to indoor air pollution and are
generally found in dark, damp locations like bathrooms and air conditioning systems. They emit
several kinds of harmful compounds and particles into the air. Poor ventilation increases the level of
these compounds in indoor air. Microbial pollution affects the body’s immunity and is generally
associated with chronic respiratory disorders like asthma and allergy.
2. Cleaning Supplies & Artificial Fragrances: Collectively, A Big Source Of Harmful Chemicals
Household cleaning products contain harmful chemicals like alcohol, ammonia, chlorine, and
petroleum-based solvents. These chemicals have adverse effects on human health, such as irritation
in your eyes, sore throats and headaches due to prolonged exposure. Volatile Organic Compounds
(VOCs) are also present in these cleaning supplies, which can cause allergies and chronic respiratory
Room fresheners, perfumes, and scented candles, too, have harmful chemicals in them, which may
lead to respiratory hazards. Room fresheners and perfumes comprise a chemical called phthalates
that have been in controversy for causing changes to the hormonal constituency and levels. When
certain products have the tag of fragrance-free added to them, they generally have an ingredient
that masks the fragrance but is equally harmful to health.
3. Kitchen Appliances & Cooking Activities: Add Oil Droplets, Excess Moisture, And Harmful Gases In
In countries like India, where chulhas are used for cooking in rural areas, carbon monoxide is
released by burning fossil fuels. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that can even cause death if the
levels of inhalation are high. Low levels of carbon monoxide can lead to nausea and
unconsciousness. When mixed with blood, this toxic gas combines with haemoglobin to form
carboxyhemoglobin which stops the transport of oxygen in the blood.
Cooking activities that make use of modern kitchen appliances, too, cause indoor air pollution. For
example, non-stick vessels on being heated release an invisible fume which is harmful to health.
4. Pet Dander: An Extremely Potent Allergen
Most of us love pets, but unfortunately, pet dander can pose serious problems. Allergies and asthma
are often triggered off by pet dander. It is one of the potent sources of indoor air pollution. Pet
dander is nothing but dried skin from pets that is exceptionally light and floats in the air, and gets
into our respiratory tract when inhaling air. These might trigger a running nose, coughing, itchy or
watery eyes and sneezing. People may also develop skin reactions from pet allergies. There are air
purifiers that reduce these pollutants in the air. Individuals with allergies and asthma might face
severe issues if they have pets around.
5. House Paints: A Source Of Volatile Organic
Paints contain VOCs. A high concentration of VOCs causes potent health problems. VOCs are
carcinogenic, and short exposure to them causes dizziness, nausea, respiratory problems, eye
irritation, headaches, liver damage, central nervous system damage and so on.
Carpet fumes and toxic smell from furnishing are also responsible for causing suffocation and various
chronic respiratory problems.
6. Poor Ventilation: A Safe House For Moisture And Microbes, But Not For You
Poor ventilation causes a build-up of molds and bacteria in the house interiors. Humidity increases
inside the house, and sometimes it might become suffocating. Ventilation is the best way to remove
trapped air and moisture from your house. The need for the constant movement of air is essential
for freshening up the house interiors. Any trapped foul smell escapes, and a gush of fresh air rushes
inside the house. Removal of humid air reduces the growth of microbes inside the house. In a well-
ventilated space, the chances of developing algae and fungi reduce to a greater extent. Fresh air also
brings positivity to your space.
7. Second-hand Smoke: Highly Injurious To Health
Secondhand smoke is a combination of the smoke from the burning of tobacco products, such as
cigarettes, cigars or pipes, and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Also known as environmental
tobacco smoke (ETS). EPA has classified secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen that has more
than 7,000 harmful substances. Out of which hundred are toxic chemicals, and 70 cause cancer. You
are easily exposed to this smoke indoors, particularly in homes and cars. You can understand the
severity from the fact that even keeping the windows or increasing ventilation of your home or car is
not enough to protect you. Secondhand smoke causes cardiovascular disease (heart disease and
stroke), lung cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, severe asthma attacks, and other serious health
8. Outdoor Pollution Like Radon : A Radioactive Gas Entering The House Through Cracks & Causing
Cellular Level Damage
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that might accumulate in enclosed places. The gas
moves through the soil and enters the house through the cracks. Slowly, an unacceptable level of
radon builds up inside the house. This gas easily attaches itself to dust and other airborne particles
and enters the lungs of human beings. It gradually starts to dissociate, producing alpha and beta
particles that damage cellular DNA, ultimately resulting in lung cancer.
To save ourselves from the external environment, we seek comfort in our homes. But if the air we
breathe in within the four walls of our home is not safe, where do we go! Nowadays, indoor air
quality has deteriorated faster due to numerous reasons. Ironically, we are being compelled to
spend more time indoors, thanks to pandemic situations like this. This extended period of exposure
is causing grave health and mental disorders. It is high time we became aware of these issues and
took necessary steps to improve indoor air quality for having a better lifestyle and good health.
Gas heating systems, leaking chimneys, fire places emits carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other harmful pollutants. Plastics and common household cleaners, paints, paint thinner often placed under the kitchen sink, release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), when used and stored. Overheating of non-stick cookware releases toxic fumes. Pesticides we use in and around the home also release various chemical and semi-volatile compounds.
Harmful effects Carbon monoxide causes headache, dizziness and fatigue. These often cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Fine particles are produced during all kinds of combustion which lead to acute and chronic effects to respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
Pet dander and hair, carpet, rugs, upholstery furniture are main source of dust mites, fungus, and bacteria. A dirty filter of air conditioners acts as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes, other tobacco products and mosquito coil emits VOC’s and formaldehyde and various particulate matters. CO2 released from our lungs is exhaled in the air which pollutes the air if the place is too crowded or there is less ventilation.
Harmful effects All these can trigger coughing, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, dry mouth, vomiting, digestive tract problems, depression, allergy and asthma attacks, and other respiratory illness.
Shower, faucets and other water sources are main cause of humidity and mold. Bathroom cleaners and personal care products like toothpaste, soaps, facial tissues, detergent, fabric softeners, air fresheners, deodorizers, hair sprays, disinfectants, are full of VOC’s and chemicals which emits harmful pollutants.
Harmful effects Mold can cause allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory ailments. VOC’s and toxic chemicals released in the bathroom can causes eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea and respiratory problems. All these products release harmful pollutants while they are used also when they are stored.
A bedroom contains many sources of indoor air pollution. Mattress, pillow and blankets, soft toys, are the reservoirs of dust mites, fungi and bacteria. Furniture, carpets, paints and beauty product like hairspray, nail polishes, perfumes, deodorants etc off gas VOC, formaldehyde and toxic gases into the air.
Harmful effects These pollutants make the air unhealthy which leads to allergy, asthma attacks, dizziness, headache, fatigue and other respiratory ailments.
Second-hand smoke Second hand Smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars or pipes and the smoke exhaled by smokers. Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Passive smoking can lead to coughing, excess phlegm, and chest discomfort. NCI (National Cancer Institute) also notes that spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), cervical cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, nasal sinus cancer, decreased lung function, exacerbation of cystic fibrosis, and negative cognitive and behavioral effects in children have been linked to ETS. Secondhand smoke exposure commonly occurs indoors, particularly in homes and cars. Secondhand smoke can move between rooms of a home and between apartment units.
Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices The air filter in your HVAC system is the front line of defense against poor indoor air quality. A typical central heating and cooling system circulates over 1,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the filter. This means the entire air volume in your house passes through the filter multiple times every day. A dirty filter, however, can actually make indoor air quality worse by acting as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. In addition to driving up your utility bill, a clogged air filter will allow all that dust and debris that should be filtered out to be re-circulated back into your home. This can cause chronic allergies and especially be dangerous for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.