Indoor Air Pollution – One of the Top 10 disease risk factors in India

Indoor Air pollution is more complicated, because we are not only dealing with outdoor air pollution seeping in, but it is multiplied by the fact that almost everything inside our homes is a source of pollution causing dangerous problems to human health.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Quality of air inside buildings is represented by:
  • Concentration of pollutants; and
  • Thermal (Temperature & Relative Humidity) conditions
People spend 80-90% of their time indoors. Indoor air quality is linked to health, comfort, and performance of the occupants.

Effects of Enclosed Space

  • Decrease in Oxygen level or Increase in CO2 level
  • Increase in temperature and humidity (Dampness)
  • Increase in bio-aerosol and odour
  • Accumulation of air pollutants

Indoor Air Pollution – A Global Concern Area

  • India: Indoor air pollution is one of the top 10 death, disease risk factors
  • Ranked among top 5 environmental health risks to public by Environmental Protection Agency
  • Carbon based gaseous pollutants (VOCs) indoors could be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors

Sources of Indoor Air Pollutants

  • Fuel-burning combustion appliances
  • Tobacco products
  • Building materials and furnishings
  • Products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies
  • Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
  • Excess moisture
  • Outdoor sources such as Pesticides / Outdoor air pollution
  • Pollutants include NO2, CO, VOC, CO2, RSPM (PM10 / PM2.5), SO2, O3, Formaldehyde, Pesticides, Asbestos, etc.

Harmful Effects of Indoor Air Problem

Sick Building Syndrome

Building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects which are linked to time spent in the building, but no specific cause of illness identified. Not a clinically diagnosable disease.
  • Short-Term Effects: Some health effects may show up shortly after a single exposure or repeated exposures to a pollutant. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, Dry or Itchy skin, nausea, difficulty in concentration, symptoms of some diseases such as asthma may show up, be aggravated or worsened.
  • Long-Term Effects: These include some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer.

7 Strategies to improve Indoor Air Quality

1. Source Control: Most effective way to improve IAQ is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or to reduce their emissions. Avoid smoking indoor or in office premises, choose low VOC-emitting products and control car exhausts in the office premises.
2. Improved Ventilation: Ventilation and shading can help control indoor temperatures. Ventilation also helps remove or dilute indoor airborne pollutants coming from indoor sources. Open doors and windows, when temperature and humidity levels permit. However, be mindful of outdoor allergens during spring and fall seasons.
3. Control Moisture / Dampness: Control relative humidity levels to less than 60percent, using dehumidifiers. Clean humidifiers frequently. If mold grows on any porous materials like dry wall, ceiling tiles or wood, discard and replace. Damp is a silent killer. Sources include Seepage / Leakage / Quality of Construction / Improper finishing of homes, offices, properties.

4. Use Indoor Plants: Indoor Plants can improve indoor air quality by filtering carbon dioxide; There are plants that are easy to maintain, emit oxygen continuously, and do not need soil – can be grown in glass water bottles (e.g, Money Plant, Sansevieria / Snake Plants, etc). The Snake Plant cleans air better than most other indoor plants as it has the ability to absorb excessive amounts of carbon monoxide. Additionally, it emits oxygen and filters other toxins from the air such as benzene, xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Money plant energizes the home by filtering air and increasing oxygen inflow.

5. Air Cleaners: Effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on how well it collects pollutants from indoor air and how much air it draws through the cleaning or filtering element.
6. Maintain maximum cleanliness in your premises: Keep your premises clean. Clean furniture / equipment on a weekly basis to reduce exposure to allergens, including dust mites. Place walk-off mats / carpets & vacuum cleaners with disposable bags and microfiber cloths.
7. Maintain Air-conditioning / HVAC System: Make sure that fuel burning furnaces, fireplaces, heaters, range tops, exhaust fans and other appliances are vented to the outside well away from windows and heating ventilation and air-conditioning(HVAC) intakes.
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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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