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What is polluting the indoor air of your homes?

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the term used to describe the air quality within and outside of buildings and other structures, particularly with regard to how it affects the health and comfort of building inhabitants. Our likelihood of experiencing indoor health issues can be decreased by being aware of and in control of common indoor contaminants.

The common indoor air pollution sources can be divided into three groups - VOCs, biological pollutants, and combustion byproducts. The health and comfort of the inhabitants of a building may be impacted by these contaminants. Some health impacts may start to show right away following a single encounter or years later with repeated exposure.

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution and their impact

The most common indoor air pollutants are:

a) Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - VOCs are gasses that are released from specific substances or liquids. Paints, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, mothballs, air fresheners, fuel storage, dry-cleaned garments, and pesticides are just a few examples of typical household items that might cause them. Numerous compounds that can have both immediate and long-term impacts are included in VOCs. Health consequences could include headaches, liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.

For instance, numerous household and building supplies contain formaldehyde. It is frequently used in resins for wooden products, insulating materials, glues, paints, cosmetic preservatives, and pesticides. Formaldehyde exposure that is prolonged and severe can lead to cancer. It is well recognised that shorter-term exposure to it can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.

b) Combustion Byproducts -

  • Carbon Monoxide - Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless gas that is released when fossil fuels are burned. The greatest indoor contributors of CO are kerosene lamps and gas heaters.

  • Indoor Particulate Matter - Particulate matter are airborne solid particles. Although particulate matter can be released directly from a source, such as a beach or construction site, it frequently results through a complicated chemical reaction between contaminants released during the combustion of fuels. Prolonged exposure to particulate matter can lead to a variety of health issues, including heart attacks, irregular heartbeats, aggravated asthma, and increased respiratory symptoms.

  • Secondhand smoke - The smoke produced by the burning of tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cigars, is referred to as secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). The EPA categorized it as a Group A carcinogen and it has more than 7,000 different chemicals. ETS induces heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, asthma episodes, and other lung problems.

  • Cookstoves and Heaters- Burning solid fuels like wood or charcoal to cook or heat a building can exacerbate poor indoor air quality. These cooking/heating techniques are still utilized by billions of families globally. When these cooking and heating techniques are paired with inadequate ventilation, the smoke and gasses they produce can seriously harm your health and cause respiratory problems.

c) Biological Pollutants - Pollutants created by living creatures are referred to as biological pollutants. Bacteria, viruses, pet saliva and dander, dust, mites, and pollen are examples of such pollutants. As excessive moisture can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria, mould, and mildew, these pollutants are frequently found in close proximity to excessive moisture in buildings, such as in humidifiers or unvented bathrooms.

Ways to tackle Indoor Air Pollutants

The invention of air cleaners has aided the process of reduction or removal of indoor air pollutants. There are mainly three types of air filters that are installed - Pre Filters, HEPA Filters and Carbon Filters. The best air cleaners have HEPA filters installed in them. These filters are meant to pull out the small pollutants from indoor air. They are made up of thin fibers specialized for trapping thin pollutant particles. This makes the HEPA filter the most effective filter in the market. These filters can be washed and cleaned to prolong its life if the product is specifically labeled as washable.

In addition, appropriate policy measures must be taken to curb outdoor air pollution to prevent outdoor pollutants from deteriorating indoor air quality.

Since we spend a large amount of time indoors for both work and leisure, it is important that we pay attention to the air quality inside our rooms for the well-being of our health.

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