Indoor air pollution
Indoor air pollution refers to chemical, biological and physical contamination of indoor air.
When people think about air pollution, they usually think about smog, acid rain, CFCs, and other forms of outdoor air pollution. Air quality has been an acknowledged concern for the last 30 years. Indoor air quality awareness seems to have begun after the energy crisis of 1970s. Since that time, we have been constructing buildings more tightly to conserve heat and air conditioning. Fresh air penetration is minimized to control costs.
Why should I be aware of this?
- To conserve energy, today's homes are built as air-tight as possible. As a result, nature's air-cleansing agents such as ozone and negative ions are kept out and contaminants are kept in.
- Most of us spend about 90% of the time indoors. To make our homes and offices safe, we first need to recognize potential sources of chemical and biological contaminants so that we can then take proactive steps to minimize our exposure.
How does this affect me?
With structures becoming tighter and more energy efficient, indoor air quality has declined so significantly that the EPA's Science Advisory Board has ranked indoor air pollution as one of the top five risks to public health in the United States.
The extent to which an individual is harmed by air pollution usually depends on the total exposure to the damaging chemicals.
Short-term effect on health
- Irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.
- Upper respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
- Headaches, nausea, and allergic reactions.
- Aggravate asthma.
Long-term effect on health
- Chronic respiratory disease
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
Indoor air pollution and children
Children today spend up to 90% of their time indoors, therefore making this exposure a substantial one. Indoor air pollution concerns are not limited to homes but also to daycare center, school, sports arena, or recreational building.
All about indoor air pollution
Many people spend large portion of time indoors - as much as 80-90% of their lives. In these enclosed environments air circulation is restricted. For these reasons, some experts feel that more people suffer from the effects of indoor air pollution than outdoor pollution.
Causes of indoor air pollution
- Excess indoor humidity
- Synthetic materials, which emit gases,
- Carpeting acts as a reservoir for pollutants and emits gases.
- Wood burning stoves, which have became a mainstay in certain parts of the world to reduce heating costs.
- Cigarette smoking
- Fuel combustion for heating or cooking
Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. It is formed as natural deposits of uranium throughout the earth’s crust decay. As radon decay products are inhaled, they can alter the cells in the lungs.
Radon is transported to buildings through permeable soils. Buildings can create pressure differentials that draws in the gases from the soil. Radon can enter the building through many paths such as cracks in the foundation, utility penetrations, sumps, and floor drains. The ventilation rate of the building affects the actual radon concentration.
People in urban areas spend 40 hours or more at their workplaces in a week where they are exposed to pollution. This form of pollution consists of invisible gases containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are often from human-made chemicals that are used to produce paint, refrigerants and solvents. These VOCs may be given off by adhesives, carpets and carpet underlay, wall coverings, furniture, cleaning solutions and even office equipment, such as photo copying machines and laser printers.
Laboratory tests show that VOCs cause respiratory irritations - even in concentrations 100 times lower than the so-called "safe" World Health Organization Indoor Air guidelines. Symptoms of VOC exposure include headaches, fatigue and mental confusion. Further, the EPA has identified 107 VOCs, commonly found in modern offices, which are known carcinogens. Indoor air pollution often results in sick building syndrome (SBS).
Indoor air pollution in rural areas might result from stoves using wood, coal and animal dung as fuel, especially in underdeveloped countries where cooking areas have very poor ventilation.
According to the World Health Organisation, India accounts for 80% of the 600,000 premature deaths that occur in south-east Asia annually due to exposure to indoor air pollution. Nearly 70% of rural households in India don't even have ventilation.
WHO estimates that pollution levels in rural Indian kitchens are 30 times higher than recommended levels and six times higher than air pollution levels found in New Delhi.
What can I do?
- Bringing in outside air -- It is, however, often inefficient, can be costly, and if the outside air is polluted, it can make your indoor air quality worse.
- Removal-- Airborne particulates filters (for instance, HEPA and activated carbon filters) physically remove contaminants from the air.
- Neutralization -- The most effective way to neutralize air pollution is using a combination of technologies that include the ultraviolet (UV) lights, hydroxyl radicals, negative ions and ozone, the combination of which promotes the destruction of bacteria, viruses, bacteria, fungi and other pollutants, including mold spores, as well as sanitizing surfaces and the air, controlling odors and reducing static electricity.
- Air purification system -- To minimize your exposure to VOCs, it is wise to invest in an efficient air purification system.
- It is a myth that radon testing is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. It is inexpensive and easy and takes little time.
- People think radon only affects certain types of homes. Radon can be a problem in homes of all types—old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, and homes without basements.
There is a popular perception that everyone should test their water for radon. While radon gets into some homes through the water, you should first test the air in your home for radon.
Sun the natural purifier of air -- The sun ionises and purifies the air naturally. This works in the same manner as putting a positive or negative charge on pollutant particles and causing them to fall out of the air. Ultraviolet light can also kill biological hazards like viruses, mold spores and bacteria.
- A recent study found that the allergen level in super-insulated homes is 200% higher than it is in ordinary homes.
- According to Scientific America, a baby crawling on the floor inhales the equivalent of 4 cigarettes a day, as a result of the out gassing of carpets, molds, mildews, fungi, dust mites, etc.
- According to a study by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, indoor air contaminants are responsible for half of all illnesses.
- Tobacco smoke actually contains over 4,000 compounds, many of which are strong irritants.
- Many ordinary activities such as cooking, cleaning and redecorating can spread indoor pollutants.
- Most homes generate about 40 pounds of dust per year for every 1,500 square feet of space.
- About 40,000 dust mites, a common cause of household allergies, can be found in only one ounce of dust. Even a spotless home can allow indoor pollutants to flourish. Bathrooms, damp basements, and even carpets and furniture are often the prime causes
- The EPA informs us that 6 out of 10 homes and buildings are "sick", meaning they are hazardous to your health to occupy as a result of airborne pollutants.
- Asthma cases in the US have increased by more than 100% since 1976. About 1 in 9 children in the urban areas in the US were reported have asthma.
- Some High voltage AC systems have been found to contain up to 27 species of fungi.
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