Indoor Air Pollution - Critical Health Hazard

Posted on November 01 2017

Indoor Air Pollution - Critical Health Hazard

90% of our time is spent indoors where the air is up to 5X more polluted than outdoor air. The World Health Organization has even listed indoor pollution as one of the most dangerous threats to our health. Indoor air pollution is a very real and dangerous thing because indoor air is far more concentrated with pollutants than outdoor air. According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report, 8 million people die every year globally because of air pollution. Among these, 4.3 million die because of air pollution from household sources and 3.7 million dies because of ambient air pollution. Indoor air pollution led to 4.3 million deaths, of which 34% were caused by strokes, 26% heart diseases and 12% respiratory disease in children.

What’s in the air you breathe Indoor?

Benzene (C6H6) - Used in paint, plastics, rubber, detergents, tobacco smoke, furniture wax and paint. Indoor air generally contains levels of benzene higher than those in outdoor air. Benzene can affect the nervous system, which can lead to drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness.

Volatile organic compound (VOC) - Sources of VOC are household products, including paints, paint strippers and other solvents, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, Air fresheners, Cosmetics, cleansers and disinfectants, moth repellents and hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, and pesticide. VOC's are potentially dangerous to humans because they can cause significant health issues in both short term and long term exposure. Possible symptoms include Headache, nausea, dizziness, nose and throat irritation, skin irritation, visual disorder, eye infection respiratory tract infection and memory loss.

Xylene - Xylene is used as a solvent in the printing, rubber, paint and leather. It is found in small amounts in gasoline and cigarette smoke. The main effect of inhaling xylene vapour creates depression of the central nervous system, with symptoms such as a headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. The effects listed above can begin to occur with exposure to air levels of about 100 ppm. They are reversible and become more noticeable and serious as the length of time of exposure increases.

Ammonia (NH3) - At home, you can be exposed if you use products that contain ammonia, including window cleaners, floor waxes and fertilizers. Breathing high concentration of ammonia can cause fluid in the lungs and possible lung damage. Exposure to high levels of ammonia can burn the eyes, skin, throat, and lungs. Breathing lower concentrations of ammonia can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, laryngitis, headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, asthma, rapid pulse, and increased blood pressure.

Trichloroethylene (‎C2HCl3) - It is used as a component of lubricants, paints, varnishes, paint strippers, pesticides, and in printing inks. TCE is carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure and poses a potential human health hazard for the central nervous system, kidney, liver, immune system, male reproductive system, and the developing embryo/fetus.

Formaldehyde (CH2O) - Sources of formaldehyde in the home are building and insulating materials, and the use of fuel-burning appliances like gas stoves or kerosene. Also found in paper bags, facial tissues, paper towels, table napkins and synthetic fibres and in Cosmetics, deodorants, shampoos, fabric dyes, and disinfectants. Formaldehyde is a respiratory irritant that causes chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing, and nose and throat irritation, according to the ATSDR. It can also cause cancer and has been linked to an increased risk of asthma and allergies in kids and elder peoples.

Asbestos - Found in Building materials: roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper products. When asbestos fibres are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time. Over time, these fibres can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation, which can affect breathing and lead to serious health problems.

Radon (Rn) - An odourless, colourless, naturally occurring radioactive gas When present in outdoor air, radon gas is typically so dilute that it does not pose any serious concern. It is when we talk about indoor or household air that radon becomes troublesome. Radon gas is present in both air and water. When present in outdoor air, radon gas is typically so dilute that it does not pose any serious concern. It is when we talk about indoor or household air that radon becomes troublesome. Exposure to radon gas, which can seep through cracks in the walls and floors of your home, increases the risk of developing lung cancer.

Molds and Bacteria - Molds and bacteria mainly grow in damp environments and can significantly lead to indoor air pollution. They emit contaminants and hazardous materials into the air which gets into indoor areas from the areas where the molds and bacteria grow. Molds and bacteria are predominantly allergens and poisoning substances that can cause sickness and health complications.

Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later.

Immediate Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

In the short term, the effects of breathing in air contaminants or toxins tend to be quick or even immediate. In other words, you may begin to notice symptoms before you even detect any issue with the indoor air quality (if you ever do some contaminants are silent and odourless).

Here are the most common symptoms of short-term exposure to indoor air toxins:

  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Itchy or runny nose
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Irritated or sore throat
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Headache
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Fatigue

Long-Term Health Risks of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Health problems due to indoor air quality can be a result of long-term exposure to indoor air pollutants. A single exposure or multiple exposures over a long period of time can cause these health issues in you or your family members. Those most at risk are the elderly, the young and those with compromised immune systems. Some of the long-term issues include:

  • Upper respiratory diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Central nervous system issues

We are just waking up to the many challenges of air pollution - indoor and outdoor . The first step towards change is awareness . Individually and collectively we can all contribute towards improving air quality and sustainability with our everyday actions. Air is the final frontier. Pl choose to make a difference.

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