6 Ways Your House is Trying to kill you by Household Air Pollution


Date: 6-November,2019Last Updated: 27-February,2021
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It is said that home is the place where one feels comfortable, safe and relaxed. But what if you found out the basic infrastructure of the house can kill you. The things that you use every day can ruin your health and you will never even know. This phenomenon occurs when any physical, chemical or biological characteristics of the air in the indoor environment change and affect your body or surroundings, it is known as indoor air pollution.

Few researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder say that cooking, cleaning, and other routine household activities generate a notable amount of volatile and particulate chemicals inside a house. These lead to indoor air quality levels which are equal to a major polluted city.

It is surprising to know that the airborne chemicals that arise inside a house don’t stay there itself. Volatile Organic Compounds from products like shampoos, perfumes and cleaning solutions tend to escape outside and are responsible for ozone and fine particle formation which in turn turns out to be a bigger source of air pollution than automobiles.

It might be surprising to you that India is not only suffering from outdoor air pollution but we have become victims of the highest rate of indoor air pollution as well. According to the Global Burden Of Disease Programme, the number of deaths associated to illness caused by Indoor Air Pollution due to burning of solid fuels was highest in India in the year 2017, about 4,81,738 which is followed by China.

Annual number of premature deaths attributed to illness as a result of household air pollution from the use of solid fuels for cooking and heating

What Causes household air pollution?

1. Mold:

This is a disease-causing agent and an allergen that develops if moisture concentrates in an area where a food source is present, for instance like skin cells or paper. If you smell anything close to an earthy or musty scent then molds are growing in your house.The build-up of mold is said to cause a violent reaction which is respiratory in nature and pulmonary. This may lead to household air pollution and cause trouble in breathing. The way to prevent the development of molds in your home is by keeping it dry, running the exhaust fan while showering and using a dehumidifier in summer.

2. Asbestos:

In the mid 20th century, asbestos was commonly used in building material. After quite a research it was determined that asbestos causes Mesothelioma Cancer. Legally builders are not allowed to use this in building materials but traces are found in older homes. This pollutant contributes to indoor pollution once we start cutting or doing the demolition and it becomes airborne. It is predicted that the latency period of Mesothelioma Cancer can be for years. The problem may start when you have spent a lot of years in the same house. It is advised to remove asbestos carefully with professional help.

3. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

This gas kills thousands of people every year. When there is a lot of carbon monoxide in your blood this condition occurs. The result can be tissue damage or death. It is believed that appliances that are improperly ventilated like stoves, water heaters, and gas appliances can release carbon monoxide. Chimneys that are improperly cleaned that cause smoke to circulate throughout the home also cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
It is wise to properly ventilate and clean heat sources like wood-burning stoves regularly. This is one of the types of pollution which is responsible for indoor air pollution.

4. Radon:

This is a naturally occurring gas that is said to have a big impact on indoor air pollution. We can’t see or smell it but it builds up to dangerous levels. It enters a home through cracks in walls, basement floors, foundations, and other openings. As radon starts decays, it releases radioactive byproducts that are generally inhaled and causes lung cancer in the long run. Radon is found in rock or soil form, so it can be found pretty easily. If this gets trapped inside your home, it can exist in dangerous levels. You can stop this indoor air pollution by installing radon mitigation system .

5. Formaldehyde:

You can find higher levels of formaldehyde in homes with smokers if someone in your house smokes. Some manufactured wood products such as cabinets, furniture, plywood, particleboard, furniture, and laminate flooring; Permanent fabrics like curtains, carpets and drapes also contain formaldehyde. Other household products like glues, paints, caulks, pesticides, cosmetics, and detergents are sources of this chemical compound. We can reduce the amounts by taking a few steps:

  • Open windows for some time on a daily basis to let in the fresh air.

  • Installing an exhaust fan really helps to maintain air circulation.
  • You have to maintain the temperature and humidity at the lowest comfortable setting.
  • Don’t allow anyone to smoke inside your home.

6. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC):

These compounds originate from solvents and chemicals. The main source for this household air pollution are perfumes, hair sprays, furniture polish, glues, air fresheners, moth repellents, wood preservatives, and many other products commonly used in the house.

The main symptoms are irritation of the eye, nose, and throat. In severe cases, there may be headaches, nausea, and loss of coordination. It is predicted that in the long term, some of the pollutants are suspected to damage the liver and other parts of the body. VOCs can be released from various products during use and in storage also.

It is believed that the amount of VOCs that is emitted from the products tends to decrease as the product starts aging. There are various ways to avoid exposure to VOCs:

  • Selecting paints and varnishes that contain low VOCs is a good option.
  • Second-hand smoke is very dangerous and this can be caused because of anybody who smokes in or near your home.
  • Minimizing the use of scented products like aerosol deodorizers, candles, and incense.
  • It is advised to store newly painted/polished furnishings and building materials for a few weeks away from your house. This is said to allow the gases to escape before the furniture is brought into the home.
  • Storing a lot of paints and solvents even if there is no use can release VOCs that can cause household air pollution.

Be it school or office, if the building or space has proper ventilation, it helps reduce a large number of indoor pollutants from your house. There are also disadvantages to this remedy as nowadays the outside air is more polluted and contains a high level of toxic compounds and chemicals that can enter the house. This may eventually lead to more pollution and the introduction of smog, ozone, and other harmful substances in your home. Now that you know, what can be harmful to you indoors in the long run, follow all the necessary tips possible and make sure to choose places with good ventilation to avoid indoor air pollution.

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