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What Is Indoor Air Pollution ?

Nearly about 2 million people die prematurely from the illness attributable to the indoor air pollution from the household solid fuel use.

Indoor air pollution is one of world’s largest environmental problems. 2.6 million people died prematurely in 2016 from the illness attributable to the household air pollution. The Indoor air pollution is caused by inefficient use of the solid fuels for cooking and heating.
It is predominantly the women and the young children who are killed by indoor air pollution.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) these deaths are attributable to following diseases:

  • pneumonia
  • stroke
  • ischemic heart disease
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and
    lung cancer.

Did you know:

  • Around 3 billion of people cook and heat their homes using the open fires and the leaky stoves, and burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and the coal.
  • Nearly about 2 million people die prematurely from the illness attributable to the indoor air pollution from the household solid fuel use.
  • Nearly 50% of the pneumonia deaths among the children under five are due to particulate matter inhaled from the indoor air pollution.
  • More than about 1 million people a year die from the chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD) that develop due to exposure to such indoor air pollution.
  • Both the women and men exposed to the heavy indoor smoke are 2-3 times more likely to develop COPD

Common indoor air pollutants include:

Carpet Fumes

When new carpet is installed, there’s very good chance it will release the chemicals from its vinyl backing and glue used to hold carpet to the floor. This release of the chemicals is known as off-gassing.

Some of the chemicals have been associated with the headaches, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath (dyspnea), and the asthma-like reactions.
Small kids may have particular difficulty, as they spend their time closer to carpet. Kids who suffer from the asthma and allergies may have a particularly rough time depending on sensitivity.

Paint and VOCs

Household paints are full of the volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs. VOCs can cause the health problems in high enough concentrations, and fresh coat of paint may just do the trick.
Most of VOCs released in the fresh paint are gone by the time that paint is dry—but not all.

Some of the VOCs are known carcinogens—meaning they have been linked with cancer production. These chemicals include the methylene chloride and benzene.

Toxins in Nonstick Pots and Pans

People have been buying the non-stick cookware since 1940s. That doesn’t mean it’s safe, though. One of chemicals used in past to make these pots and pans has been linked with the kidney, thyroid, prostate, bladder, and the ovarian cancers.

However, second toxic chemical can be released from the superheating your nonstick cookware. Nonstick cookery releases the toxic fumes when it heats up over 500 F. This can lead to symptoms known as the “Teflon flu,” and it can even kill pet birds.

Be careful not to overheat the nonstick pots and pans. If you need to sear or otherwise superheat your food, use the cookware made of different material such as the cast iron to avoid these problems.

Harmful Household Cleaners and Disinfectants

Chances are you use multiple cleaners, the sanitizers, and the disinfectants when you scrub down your surfaces. When these substances interact in air you breathe, they can form the complex VOCs that have been linked to various health problems.

One study found that risk of asthma and other respiratory problems increases longer someone has spent as a professional cleaner. Similar but limited evidence has been found of these same effects at the home, too.

Dry Cleaning 

Most of the dry cleaners rely on chemical known as the perchloroethylene. That’s mouthful, yes. The chemical remains on the clothes to varying degrees, and studies have shown that it causes cancer in animals.
Dry cleaners are supposed to the remove most of the chemical by recapturing it for later use. But not all do. If you show up at dry cleaners and find that clothes have strong chemical smell, tell cleaner you won’t accept than until they’ve had time to the properly dry. If it keeps happening, consider the switching cleaners.

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is very deadly. Since 1964, the CDC estimates that a quarter of billion nonsmokers have died from the health problems related to the secondhand smoke exposure. It’s hard to avoid, too. the Secondhand smoke can’t be eliminated by filtering it, ventilating it, or separating the smokers from nonsmokers.
The health problems this toxin poses to the children is different from adults. Children are prone to the respiratory symptoms and infections, as well as ear infections.

For kids it makes the asthma attacks more frequent and more severe, and it has been associated with greater risk of the sudden infant death syndrome. Adults are more at risk of the heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer when they are exposed to the secondhand smoke.
The best strategy for protecting yourself from the secondhand smoke is to avoid smoke altogether. If you smoke, quit.

Gas Stoves 

If you live in one of many homes that use natural gas stoves, you’ll really want to pay attention to this. The convenience of the natural gas is countered by noxious gases these appliances emit: the carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and even bit of formaldehyde.
One study found that the CO and NO2 levels are substantially higher in the homes with gas ovens, especially in winter when people are less likely to open their windows.

Some people in the colder climates may avoid using theirs since they send warm air up and out of  the home. If you’re reluctant to use ventilator hood, you could also switch to an electric model.

Soot, Smoke, Furnaces, Fireplaces and AC

Using the wood or the charcoal to heat your home may be a quaint way to stay warm, but it also adds the harmful substances to air you breathe. Worldwide nearly half of the people use simple stoves or the open fires to keep warm. And that has led to some of the extremely unfortunate consequences.
More than half of the pneumonia deaths in children under 5 are caused by soot. Additionally, more than the 4 million people die premature deaths connected to the cooking using solid fuels

Radon Leak

Radon is radioactive gas that bubbles up from ground as the naturally occurring uranium breaks down. And if your home has the cracks, a basement, or a crawlspace, this odorless gas can find its way in,the raising the risk of the lung cancer in your home.
Since this radioactive gas can’t be seen, or smelled, or tasted, it takes special test to know if your home has radon leak.

Air Freshener 

The next time you whip out air-freshening candle or spray, consider what else you may be releasing into your air besides the fresh scent. Air fresheners have been found to contain the phthalates, formaldehyde, and other harmful chemicals, and often those chemicals are not listed among product’s ingredients as they may be considered the trade secrets.

Formaldehyde Fumes in Furniture

Pretty much everyone has some amount of the formaldehyde in their homes. Home products with the formaldehyde include the wood furniture such as cabinets and items using the particleboard or plywood, as well as laminate flooring. These products release most of formaldehyde after two years.

Pesticide Pollution

Since the dawn of man, the pests have caused disease, spoiled food, and wreaked havoc in homes. That hasn’t changed. What have changed are methods of the controlling pests.

Copy Machines and Other Office Equipment

The home isn’t only place where you’ll find the indoor air quality problems. Offices have their own hazards. Copying the machines and the printers can harm air quality, too. One study found that workers in the photocopy centers stand at an increased risk of the heart disease, and several studies show a link between the photocopiers and sore throats, skin irritation, asthma, and other health problems. That’s because copy machines emit several of toxic gasses, such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone.

Pet Dander

Pets who shed such as the dogs and cats leave the skin flakes known as the dander in the air. Dander is allergen for many, and can cause the wheezing, irritation, coughing fits and, in extreme cases, the anaphylactic shock.
The best remedy is to double down on the housekeeping. Keep floors vacuumed and well mopped.

Damp Buildings and Mold

Sometimes the indoor air contaminants can be living creatures—if by that you mean the mold. Mold in home can lead to some nasty repercussions. Some of health effects include the coughing fits, sneezing, dizziness, fever, and the exhaustion. They can sometimes cause the digestive distress, too, and can trigger asthma attacks.

Number of deaths from indoor air pollution

In visualization we see absolute number of the global deaths attributed to indoor air pollution from 1990 onwards. These deaths have been aggregated by the region. Overall we see  decline in number of the pollution-related deaths since 1990, falling from 2.7 million to 1.6 million in 2017.

Deaths from the air pollution are largely concentrated in Asia and Africa. nearly 70% of all deaths in 2017 were in the Asia, with more than quarter in Africa & the Middle East, and only a couple of percent across Americas and Europe

Annual number of the premature deaths attributed to the household air pollution from use of solid fuels for cooking and
heating. Solid fuels includes use of crop wastes, dung, charcoal and the coal for indoor cooking.


Linking indoor air pollution and pollution-related deaths

Indoor air pollution has wide range of the negative health impacts, which can lead to the morbidity but also in many cases, mortality. These health outcomes range from the respiratory infections to the chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD) to lung cancer and have varying effects on population depending on the factors such as age and sex.

There are two potential factors which can merge to influence how the deaths from household air pollution are linked to the income. The first is that – as we have explored earlier in this entry – the poorer households have stronger reliance on solid fuels for cooking. This would suggest that the poorer households would therefore be at the higher risk of the negative health impacts from household air pollution.

The second is that overall health outcomes and life expectancy in poorer countries is typically lower than at middle and high incomes. As a result, the exposure to air pollution overall may have greater health impact on the low-income households.

Preventing Indoor Pollution: Ventilation

Proper ventilation helps reduce large number of the indoor pollutants from your home, school, or office. It’s even been linked to the better school performance and fewer absences at the school and work. This is good solution for many, but there may be some exceptions. Ventilation also lets more outdoor air inside, and places with the high concentrations of the smog (and with it ozone) may be introducing other harmful substances into their air. But ventilation has been shown to reduce the dust mites, mold, and other organisms that contribute to the indoor air pollution. (source) (source)

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Self life hacks

Doctor by profession and blogger by passion

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