Air Pollution Can Be Deadly For Senior Citizens

Did you know air pollution causes more deaths in senior citizens than any chronic illness? Indoor air pollution is equally dangerous. How? Read to know.
In 2019, the total number of deaths from air pollution in India was 1.7 million. This number makes up about 18% of the total deaths in the country. With all these deaths, guess how much of the country's economy was affected? It- Worth 260,000 crores, according to the records of The Hindu. When air pollution is so high that it can be held accountable for so many deaths, it is bound to impact indoor air quality. Kids and senior citizens- those with low immunity remain especially vulnerable to the ill-effects of air pollution. The senior citizens are the ones who are at higher risk of being affected by indoor air pollutants since they spend most of their time inside the house. Also, their immunity power gradually becomes lower with each passing day; therefore, they should be kept more protected from the ravages of indoor air pollution.
To keep a check on the indoor air quality, we must educate ourselves on this topic.

What Contaminates The Indoor Air?

It is the daily chores facilitated by the advancement in time and technology that causes indoor air pollution. The primary causes are as follows:

Emission From The Burning Of Inflammable Items

When we use appliances that use fuels like coal, wood, etc., they emit toxic gases which, if inhaled, harm human health.

Smoking Or Consuming Tobacco-Containing Products

Consuming products containing tobacco like cigarettes, hookah, etc., within the house releases harmful chemicals like arsenic, ammonia, carbon monoxide, lead, tar, and formaldehyde, etc. The amount of these pollutants is substantial enough to coat human lungs with nothing but absolute poison.

Odour And Fumes From Cleaning & Maintenance, Personal Care Products

Household cleaning products contain chemicals like alcohol, ammonia, chlorine, and petroleum-based solvents. These products release dangerous Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which, when inhaled, have adverse effects on our health that can cause irritable eyes, sore throats, headaches, aggravates allergies, asthma, and chronic respiratory issues.

Improper Ventilation

Poor ventilation causes condensation within the house and growth of microbes since excess moisture does not get passage to exit. Not only it hampers the quality of your house, but it also harms your health.

Other Causes Of Indoor Air Pollution Are

● CO2 from the respiration of human beings etc.
● Outdoor pollution
● Power plants and other industries emitting smoke rich in carbon monoxide
● Exhaustion of vehicles
Together, the gaseous emissions add to the extent of air pollution.

How Does Air Pollution Effect Senior Citizens?

First thing first, as we have already mentioned that senior citizens spend more time indoors and hence, are more vulnerable to the dangerous effects of air pollution.
Now going by the statistics, by 2050, the senior citizen population of India is supposed to reach 319 million. A study published in the Journal of Thoracic Disease in 2015 stated that the relationship between elderly morbidity and their exposure to polluted air even for the short-term duration is a positive one.

So, what are some of these effects?

Weaker Immune System – Inability To Fight Common Diseases

The immunity power of older people declines with age; hence, their bodies cannot produce antibodies responsible for fighting disease. Thus, it becomes difficult for them to fight the harmful effects of polluted air indoors or outdoors.

Decreased Lung Capacity, Clogging Of Alveoli, And Breathing Trouble

With age, tissues and muscles of the lungs start changing, ultimately reducing the capacity of the lungs to filter air. The total lung capacity is about six litres, which declines after 35-40 of age; thus, breathing becomes slow over time. The problem aggravates if the air is loaded with pollutants.
People breathe in the polluted air, and the pollutants reach the lungs and respiratory tract. This phenomenon aggravates the already existing COPD, asthma, and other such breathing problems. If it remains untreated or unattended, lung cancer may also worsen the asthma condition, chronic bronchitis, and other problems like emphysema.

Affected Heart Functionality Due To Increased Blood Impurity Levels

Senior citizens are more prone to experience cardiac problems. With increasing age, cardiac functioning diminishes. So when they are compelled to inhale air heavily polluted with contaminants, the heart's functionality gets affected as the blood flow is lowered. The ultimate result is a breathing problem.

Vision Problems: Itchy Eyes, Redness, Water Welling-Up, Etc.

When the dust or other such micro-sized particles continue to hover in the air, they are very likely to reach the eyes and settle there, causing vision disturbances. It gradually leads to other complications like itchy eyes, water welling up in the eyes, etc.

Other Possible Health Threats

● Ultrafine particles present in the polluted air may damage the reproductive organs
● Senior citizens may experience lowered cognition skills as induced by air pollution
● Pollutant particles may reach the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) and may become a causative factor of stroke among the senior citizens
● Air pollution may give rise to sore throat,skin rash, etc. in senior citizens
With an already lowered immunity, the senior section of the population is more prone to develop one or more of these complications when interacting with polluted air.

How Can We Ensure A Better Life For Our Senior Citizens?

If the source of the problem is air pollution, we must implement policies to tackle that if not put a stop to it. But in a country like India, where the population is rising every day, it is pretty tough to put a cap on air pollution. So what can you do? Here are a few simple solutions:

Check The Pollution Level

Install an air quality monitor in your home to check and notify you about the indoor air pollution level. Since dampness is a major cause of worsening indoor air quality, you must also consider getting a damp inspection of your home done by a trusted inspection company.

Stop Smoking Indoor

If you are a smoker, quit. If you are trying to quit and still have the urge to smoke, go to the balcony or entirely outside the home. The health of your senior family member must be more important to you than your urge to smoke.

Place Air Purifying Plants

Spider plants, peace lilies, aloe vera are some of the small but power-packed plants that can purify your indoor air if appropriately maintained.

Install Air Purifier

Purifiers with advanced air purifying abilities can ensure that you inhale air free of 99.9% pollutants, especially a HEPA air purifier. So, install one today and forget the fear of breathing in toxic elements.
Last and the most important tip: Mask up!
This pandemic has taught us how important it is to wear a face mask. Why only viruses, face masks are equally functional in protecting the lungs from other pollutants. For senior citizens, wearing a mask while going outside is essential. If we cannot control air pollution right away, we must, at least, save our senior ones from the possible adversities arising out of it.
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Know Your Home Air

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.

Guest Bathroom

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.

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