Indoor air pollution kills 4.2 million people each year. Here’s what we can do

What is indoor air pollution?

Indoor air pollution is created by the release of harmful pollutants indoors. These can include fine particles, carbon monoxide, and various other toxins.

Indoor air pollution is a big problem in developing countries, where people often burn fuels indoors for cooking and heating. It’s also a concern for people living in energy-efficient homes. These properties tend to be relatively airtight, meaning indoor air can quickly become stagnant and pollutant levels can rise rapidly.

And while pollution in all its forms can be harmful, indoor air pollution is particularly pernicious because people are often soaked in it for long periods of time.

What causes indoor air pollution?

There are many causes of indoor air pollution. Some are easily recognized by their smell, but many others go undetected.

Smoke from cigarettes, cigars and pipes is one of the most common and dangerous indoor air pollutants. Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, at least 70 of which are carcinogenic. When inhaled, these chemicals can also cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other cardiovascular diseases that lead to heart attacks and other serious consequences.

Additionally, some reports suggest that tobacco smoke pollutes the air ten times more than diesel car exhaust, making it one of the most serious sources of indoor air pollution.

Another common indoor air pollutant is particulate matter (PM) from stoves. In developing countries, solid fuels such as wood, charcoal and manure are often burned indoors for cooking and heating.

Exposure to high levels of particulate matter from indoor stoves is linked to various health problems, including respiratory infections, asthma, heart disease and cancer. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution from cookstoves is responsible for around 4.3 million deaths each year, mostly among women and children.

The chemicals in many cleaning products can pollute indoor air. These chemicals release toxic fumes, which can be harmful if inhaled. Some of these chemicals have been linked to various health problems, including respiratory infections, asthma, and cancer.

Additionally, many cleaning products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), gases that can easily evaporate at room temperature. When VOCs are released into the air, they can cause a variety of short- and long-term health effects, including headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.

Mold is an indoor air pollutant that can cause a myriad of health problems, including respiratory infections, asthma, and allergies. Mold thrives in damp environments and can be found in a variety of places around the home, such as on walls, floors, ceilings, and basements.

Additionally, for people with weakened immune systems or pre-existing conditions like asthma or allergies, mold exposure can exacerbate disease and cause serious respiratory infections.

Pet dander is another common source of indoor air pollution. Dander can be found in animal fur, skin and saliva and is shed by most furry animals. When pet dander is released into the air, it can be inhaled and cause various respiratory problems, including asthma attacks, hay fever, and other allergies.

Ways to fight indoor air pollution

It may seem like indoor air pollution is an impossible problem, but there are ways to reduce pollutant levels.

One of the main ways to reduce indoor air pollution is to provide adequate ventilation. Good ventilation helps remove polluted indoor air and replace it with fresh, clean air from outside.

When indoor spaces are not adequately ventilated, pollutants can build up to dangerous levels. This is of particular concern in homes that are tightly sealed to save energy.

Inadequate ventilation can also lead to a buildup of carbon dioxide, which can cause health issues including headaches, dizziness and fatigue.

High Efficiency Particulate Filters (HEPA) can reduce indoor pollution by effectively removing pollutants such as mold spores, pet dander, dust mites and tobacco smoke. In fact, HEPA filters remove 99.97% of airborne particles 0.3 microns or larger from the air that passes through them.

Filters can be used in a variety of ways, including in vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, and heating and air conditioning systems.

Many conventional cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that pollute indoor air. To avoid this, choose green cleaners made with natural ingredients like white vinegar, baking soda, borax, citrus fruits and essential oils.

These natural ingredients are safe for indoor use and are effective at cleaning surfaces and removing dirt, dust and grime.

Keep interior spaces clean and dry

Keeping indoor space clean and dry can help reduce indoor air pollution. This is especially important in areas where mold tends to grow, such as the kitchen and bathroom. In addition, it is crucial to quickly repair any leaks or water damage to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

Keeping plants indoors is an effective way to reduce indoor pollutants. Indoor plants help purify the air by absorbing contaminants and releasing oxygen. Additionally, indoor plants help improve indoor air quality by increasing humidity and reducing dust levels.

Additionally, the effectiveness of houseplants in purifying indoor air has been supported by NASA, the US space agency. In 1989, the agency conducted an air quality study and found that certain indoor plants were very effective at removing a variety of air pollutants. These include English ivy, pothos plant, bamboo palms, peace lily plants and a few others.

Choose low-emission building materials and furniture

When building or renovating interior spaces, it is important to choose low-emission building materials and furnishings. These materials and furnishings emit lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), harmful chemicals that can pollute indoor air.

Some low-emitting materials and furnishings include bamboo, wool carpets, and latex paint.

An air purifier can provide protection against indoor air pollution, removing pollutants like dust, pollen, mold spores and pet dander. They can also remove VOCs, carbon monoxide and other harmful chemicals.

When choosing an air purifier, it is important to choose one that is the right size for the room and has a high CADR rating. The CADR rating indicates the unit’s ability to purify the air in a given space. To determine the correct CADR, divide the square footage of your space by 1.55. Suppose you have a 250 square foot room. Divide that number by 1.55 and you’ll get a figure of 161, indicating that you’ll need a room air purifier with a CADR of 160 or higher.

The future of indoor air pollution control

The future of indoor air pollution control is in the hands of technology. Currently, several air purifiers on the market use advanced technology to remove pollutants from indoor air.

Additionally, indoor air pollutants can now be detected with more accurate, efficient and compact sensors thanks to advances in environmental sensing technology. As a result, smart home systems could soon use sensors like these to track indoor air quality and warn the ventilation system before dangerous levels are reached.

In the future, indoor air pollution could also be controlled through nanotechnology, which works by trapping or destroying indoor contaminants at the molecular level. This technology is already being developed for air purifiers and can potentially remove indoor pollutants on a much smaller scale than current methods.

Moreover, innovations are never limited; new and more effective ideas and inventions can develop to better control indoor air pollution. Today, however, steps can be taken to limit indoor air pollution.


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