When discussing the causes and effects of air pollution, people automatically think of car emissions, the environment, ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect, and so on. But it is not limited to the external environment. In fact, a recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency placed indoor air pollution among the top five leading environmental health risks.
From gas cooking stoves and cigarette smoke, to pollen and dander, many homes are filled with toxic materials that can adversely affect the health and well-being of the occupants. Knowing the different airborne particles that pose health risks and managing their presence in your home can help your loved ones breathe easy.
The most common household air pollutants include:
- Biological contaminants
Dust mites, cockroaches, cat saliva, animal dander, bacteria, mould, mildew, and pollen cause everything from lethargy to allergic rhinitis to asthma, affecting even those who are not sensitive to allergens.
These pollutants thrive in moist and nutritious environments. They can be controlled by repairing leaking pipes, removing water-damaged materials, eliminating any damp environment, and keeping the indoor relative humidity at 30 to 40 percent.
- Volatile Organic Compounds
Many household items such as cleaning products, varnishes, paints, paint removers, adhesives, glues, building materials, printers, and copiers contain VOCs. VOCs are toxic gases, which are emitted every time you use these items, resulting in both short and long-term effects ranging from headaches, nausea, and dizziness, to organ failure and even cancer.
If using products that contain VOCs, it is important that you obey the cautions. Keep your home well ventilated and dispose old products correctly.
Climate change, increased sunlight, and warmer temperatures have triggered the formation of ozone at the ground-level. While ozone helps to regulate temperatures, this odourless gas is also known to cause respiratory problems. If can also get inside your home through open doors and windows where it mixes with emissions from household sources, causing harmful secondary reactions.
Find out the Air Quality Index (the level of ozone and other major pollutants) in your area, so you can take measures to reduce the impact. You can reduce the risk by eliminating or reducing sources of VOC in your home that may react with the ozone.
Other known indoor air pollutants include radon, asbestos, smoke, lead, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and pesticides/insecticides.
Researchers claim that indoor air can be 2 – 10 times more toxic than outdoor air. Poor air quality contributes to about 2 million premature deaths each year. Fortunately, you can improve indoor air quality by removing pollutants, air-cleaning, and increasing ventilation.