When it comes to assessing the health of a family, do you know that most of the time the respiratory conditions arise due to indoor air pollution? Reports claim that we spend approximately 90% of the time indoors and almost everything surrounding us emits pollutants that are harmful. There are microscopic pollutants, both natural and human-made, which harms the healthy living. While the concern is more towards the outdoor pollution due to the degrading air quality, indoor air contamination is also surging at an unbelievable pace. In fact pollution levels of indoor pollution exceeds 2x-10x times more than the outdoor pollution.

The obligation for living in space-restricted apartments, construction of such tightly sealed buildings, use of synthetic materials, reduced ventilation and use of chemical products have created havoc in the modern lifestyle. The increased rate of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, lead and carbon monoxide are not the only factor to blame. Several other factors are affecting the quality of air in enclosed spaces.

Let’s look at the sources, effects, and solution for such hazardous conditions for a better understanding.

Sources of indoor air pollution

Pets

It’s very unfortunate to know that our adorable furry friends are one of the prime contributors to the airborne pollution. Dogs, cats, rabbits are the primary source as the pet dangers which are nothing but skin cells can clog pores and can also cause lung problems when exposed for long-term. People allergic to such microscopic pollutants are advised to stay away as this can be vital if not addressed immediately. There are also severe, long-term consequences for prolonged exposure to indoor air pollution.

The list also includes conditions like shortness of breath, hay fever, hearing loss, asthma and the potential increased risk of cancer on prolonged exposure.

Pollens

Other microscopic organisms are the pollens that float around and degrade the quality of air making it unfit for breathing. While they are essential for the reproduction and keep the nature in check, today the presence of pollen allergy is well above 10%. The pollens typically travel through your air duct and upwards to your home following the stack effect and contaminating the indoor. They can cause adverse health effects, and there are various diseases which arise from the presence of pollens in the natural habitat.

Smoke

Smoking is not only injurious to your health but also the people around. While tobacco can be cancerous when consumed in abundance, the smoke residues are equally dangerous. Even the well-ventilated space can suffocate your breathing due to the unacceptable level of toxins. The less you smoke, the more is the chances of healthy living of your loved ones.

Vehicles

Apparently, the cars are not only the reason for outdoor pollution but are liable to indoor air pollution as well. Young children being less resistant suffer the most with numerous fatalities. The car emissions disturb the air quality and can also affect the skin if allergic. The car indoor pollutants can induce significant respiratory symptoms. The vehicular indoor air quality of public transports is also degrading due to alternative diesel fuels.

Dust

Everyone might have experienced sneezing and itchy eyes after cleaning the house. This condition is due to the exposure to the household dust that is airborne which can even trigger asthma and other respiratory diseases. Dust mites are the most common allergens that be found in carpets, pillows, and fabrics which are not visible to untrained eyes. They can have a severe impact on the people with the sensitive immune system.

Mold

Mold spores have adverse effects on indoor air quality or IAO. They are microscopic fungi that enter your home via some source and breed on moisture or damp area and reproduce by releasing spores into the air. While the people immune to it can manage, people who are allergic or exposed for long can have an important effect. In low amount, the molds are harmless but if the level increases they can affect people especially those with the suppressed immune system.

Biological elements

It is very concerning today that we tend to breathe in germs, bacteria, and viruses like the flu. These factors are a significant army invisible to naked eyes and present all around. Table, chair and every possible corner of your place. The virus and germs can enter your body through nose, mouth, broken skin and make you sick if your immune system is not strong enough.

Other alarming factors

Harmful chemicals: There are different, surprising factors such as air fresheners, camphor, ethanol, phenol which release hazardous chemicals into the air decreasing the air quality. Though they intend to serve for a comfortable living, this is compromised with clean quality air.

Building and decorating materials: Home revamping materials are also the culprit as the paints and sealers release toxins. Presence of formaldehyde in plywood is released gradually over a period.  Lacquers, finishes, varnishes, and paints contain Volatile Organic Compounds which pollute the air.  Radon and Asbestos equally contribute to the ill-effects.

Burners and stoves: The heaters and furnaces that use gas (old models) release a considerable amount of pollutants that are usually overlooked.

indoor air pollution infographic

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Health Consequences of Living In Air Polluted Spaces

While smoking, industrial emissions and other human-made pollutions are the cause for the degrading air quality index; the above mentioned can also lead to a fatal health problem. Some of the ill-effects are listed below:

Due to Allergies

Allergy can arise from anything unwanted to the body and to anyone from infants to elderly member of the family. There are innumerable reasons for an allergy the most common of them all being the air pollutants. Pollens, molds, and dust are a serious threat if the person has respiratory conditions and a less immune system. The person allergic can experience breathlessness, hyper coughing and also can get hay-fever on prolonged exposure.

Viruses and Germs

Fever and feeling weak are the initial symptoms when attached by the airborne microbes like viruses and germs that are almost on everything we touch. These elements entering the human body becomes the antigens and multiply which makes you feel sick.

Lung and Throat Cancer

On continuous exposure, people with weak lung can experience wheezing and coughs. Also shortness of breath. Smoke and household residues also contaminate leading to serious lung problems. There are cases where people have developed lung cancer due to poor breathing environment. Significant lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or bronchitis are nowadays a common problem and are seen across all the age groups. The severe level of such contamination also irritates the throat at times resulting in throat cancer.

Congestion and Sleeping Problems

When you are subjected to the unacceptable and polluted environment and fail to purify the surrounding, there are severe chances of sleeping problems and congestion. Your breathing pattern is affected, and that can take your sleep away.

Poisoning symptoms

The particulate pollutants that you breathe in reach the lung alveoli and get finally absorbed by the blood which can cause various diseases similar to poisoning. Chemical elements like peroxyacetyl nitrate may cause respiratory disease and eye irritations. Hydrocarbon causes cancer, and the most hazardous carbon monoxide causes nausea and headaches. PCBs damage liver and central nervous system also causing skin pigmentation.

Nausea, Fatigue, and Headaches

As explained earlier, the chemicals which are present in the cleaning products, room fresheners, and other enhancing materials are life-threatening factors that need to be addressed immediately. People subjected to such poor situations often complain about fatigue, nausea, and headaches.

Asthma flare-ups and Coughing

A general condition that smokers complain about is the breathlessness and anxiety. Shortness of breath is the next issue. Not only does these harmful elements when released into the air cause a severe health threat to the smokers but also to the people nearby. The victims experience asthma attacks.  The poisonous gases and residues also cause a significant letdown.

Disorientation and Dizziness

The body over a period fails to defend the ill-effects internally and the person affected start showing signs of degrading health. Disorientation and lack of coordination are the most common effects. There are cases where the patients suffered liver, brain and kidney damages due to chemical pollutants.

Guide to neutralizing indoor air pollution

Creating Awareness

Knowing about the indoor air pollution is the first step to bring about a positive change. Kids, teens, and adults need to see the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and why this can be a severe threat if not addressed on time. Studies claim that 59% of homemakers have lost their lives in developing countries like India. The reason being nothing but the indoor air pollution. It is high time that the campaigns get support on a mass level that can provide a breathable environment to the future generations.

Houseplants

A simple solution to remove the air pollution – Houseplants! These plants can combat the ill-effects of the pollutants especially the gases released by VOCs from paints, lacquer, and varnishes. Some of the plants that can be considered are English Ivy, Golden Pothos, Boston Fern and Dragon Tree.

Reduce The Use Of Chemical Agents

Particulates from simplest of material like the candle can be unpleasant when used regularly. Avoid over-use of strong perfumes, asbestos, cleaning chemicals, home building materials, formaldehyde, fabric cleaning chemicals, and paints. Instead look out for a natural alternative that can suffice your requirement wherever possible.

DIY Air Fresheners

Air fresheners result in accidental poisoning. These domestic fragrances pose a risk to your loved ones and are toxic to your furry friends as well. They contain various chemicals that can lead to reproductive and development issues. The high amount of phthalates in these fragrances are a severe threat. Instead, opt for the DIY air fresheners that are soothing and create an environment which is breathable. Scented rosemary, orange peel candles, reed diffusers, custom potpourri being some of the popular alternatives.

Adequate ventilation

Making room for proper ventilation is imperative. This can lower concentration of radon and VOC, filtering out the allergens and prevent asthma to some extent. Who doesn’t want to breathe fresh air? Well, if not fresh than at least circulation of air can result in a better health condition.

Home Filtration Systems

Air purifying and Filtration units have now become a quintessential product due to the rapidly changing environment. Pollution is all around and now even indoors are being hugely affected. These devices remove contaminants making the air fit for breathing. Some of the best selling purifiers such as hOmeLabs 3 in 1 Ionic Air Purifier, GermGuardian AC4100 3-in-1 Air Purifier, Levoit Air Purifier LV-H132 and Honeywell HPA060 Air Purifier are the perfect solution for space-restricted home and are integrated with the HEPA activated carbon filter that not only purifies the air but also eliminates the unpleasant odor. It is very much recommended to install such systems beneficial for asthmatics and infants.

Cleaning regularly

The fundamental thing one can do is to clean your space on a regular basis. This also involves keeping the moisture level in check as mold relies on damp surfaces. Cleaning regularly can help you to maintain hygiene as well keep air pollution under check.

Install Carbon monoxide Detector

Odorless and colorless, carbon monoxide is impossible to detect. They are released due to many factors like burning wood, coal, propane, gasoline and heating oil. To remove such pollutants, it is suggested to install a carbon monoxide detector that can inform you about the alarming rate of pollution in the surrounding. There are different types of such indicators and come with a sound alarm which alerts the housemates when these systems sense a certain level of carbon monoxide in the air. Now that’s very innovative to eye on for your space.