Indoor Air Quality of our homes play a very important role in our safety and health. Our lungs, heart, mental health, even fertility is greatly affected by air pollution. But at least our homes should be a safe haven for our minds and bodies. However, even if we stop traffic emissions or industrial fumes in the ambient air pollution from getting inside our abode, there are still plenty of sources contributing to household pollution.
Most common indoor air pollution sources can be divided into three groups - VOCs, combustion byproducts and biological pollutants:
a) Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - VOCs are gases 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. Different chemicals can lead to different health impacts through these VOCs, both immediate and long-term. Health consequences can include headaches, liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, and in some cases even cancer.
Formaldehyde is a common example of the chemicals that release VOCs and is used in plenty of household and building supplies, such as resins for wooden products, insulating materials, glues, paints, cosmetic preservatives, and pesticides. Prolonged and severe exposure to Formaldehyde can lead to cancer. In the short-term, it can cause irritation of eyes, nose, throat and skin allergies.
b) Combustion Byproducts -
Particulate pollution released from combustion activities such as cooking, tobacco smoking or heating come under this category:
i) 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. CO interferes with oxygen delivery to the body’s organs and can cause fatigue, headaches, dizziness and confusion.
ii) Indoor Particulate Matter - Particulate matter are airborne solid particles. Although particulate matter can be released directly from a source, such as road dust or construction debris, it frequently results through a complicated chemical reaction between contaminants released during the combustion of fuels. Prolonged exposure to particulate matter can lead to cardiovascular issues, respiratory diseases and frequent asthma attacks.
iii) Tobacco smoke - The smoke produced by the burning of tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigars, is referred to as 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.
iv) Gas stoves and Heaters- Burning solid fuelsl to cook or heat a building can exacerbate poor indoor air quality. Gas Stoves are now known to emit CO and NO2 gases into the indoor air. When these cooking and heating techniques are paired with inadequate ventilation, the smoke and gases produced remain suspended in the indoor air and find a way into our lungs.
c) Biological Pollutants - Pollution from living beings such as bacteria, viruses, pet saliva, dander, dust, mites, and pollen are referred to as biological pollutants. Warm and moist environment acts as a breeding ground for bacteria, mould, mildew and fungus. Damp walls, unvented bathrooms, lack of air circulation and sunlight often make a deadly combination for these pollutants to affect the health of the occupants.
How to tackle Indoor Air Pollutants
Air purifiers and air filters have made the process of cleaning air very easy. There are three main types of air filters that are used for reducing pollutants - Pre filters, Carbon filters, HEPA filters.
Pre-filters are the first stage of filtration and capture the large particles such as dust and debris. Carbon filters are useful in trapping odors, toxic fumes and VOCs in particular.
HEPA or High Efficiency Particulate Air filters pull and catch the smaller pollutants in the air. They are made up of thin fibers specialized for trapping tiny particles. These filters can be washed and cleaned to prolong its life if the product is specifically labelled as washable.
An average person spends 80-90% of their time indoors. We cannot control the ambient air pollution in our city, but the indoor air quality of our homes is in our control. Identify the pollutants in your home and invest in the right solution today, for better health tomorrow.