We are living in times wherein pollution is not just restricted to outside but inside the cozy well-decorated corners of our house too. Gone are the days when the feel of fresh air everywhere around could be experienced. When we think of air pollution, the images that come to our minds are smoke from factories or fumes from a vehicle. But the truth is air pollution is way more than that. Air that looks clean can also have many pollutants that can cause havoc with our respiratory system.
A lot of time is spent indoors be it in our homes, offices, buildings, shopping malls, schools, colleges, etc. Many research studies point out to the fact that indoor pollution can be as hazardous as any kind of outdoor pollution. It has also been seen that the air in many homes is 4-5 times more polluted than the air outside! Moreover, the levels of indoor pollution in houses located in rural areas is almost at par with air pollution inside the houses of urban areas.
I am sure all of us have experienced those times when the moment you enter a particular house or a building, the throat gets itchy and eyes start watering. Well, this could be a sign of indoor pollution. The common term that is being used often these days for polluted indoor spaces is the ‘sick building syndrome’. Lack of space and increasing demand for houses forced the builders to build flats and houses close to each other due to which the houses became dingy and had poor ventilation.
As a result, the pollutants and the toxins get accumulated in such houses. So, what are the common air pollutants that are lingering in and around our homes?
Pollutants in our homes
Asbestos, Lead from paints, phthalates from adhesives, detergents, PVC pipes etc, VOCs or volatile organic compounds from aerosol sprays, air fresheners, disinfectants, preservatives, etc. Biological sources of indoor pollution are pollens, fungi, dust mites, various airborne bacteria and viruses coming from moist walls, pets, poorly maintained air conditioners, carpets, beddings, etc. Cigarette and cigar smoke, kerosene heaters, fireplaces etc also add in a lot of indoor air pollutants.
Some of the health hazards caused due to indoor pollution are:
- Respiratory tract infections like pneumonia and bronchitis
- Excessive irritation of the nasal passage, eyes, throat as well as skin.
- Lethargy, fatigue and dizziness
- Severe asthma and frequent asthmatic attacks
- Allergies with continuous sneezing and running nose.
- Problems related to the digestive system
- Major health conditions like cancer, liver failure, heart diseases, infertility and kidney problems.
Sounds dangerous! Well, all the pollutants that have been previously mentioned are necessary evils. We can go away with them completely. So, what are the options that we are left with to decrease indoor pollution?
Few simple steps can be taken in order to reduce the levels of air pollutants inside the house:
- Proper and increased ventilation- Open most of the windows of the house every day in the morning for a few minutes. The maximum inflow of fresh air will help in reducing the load of pollutants.
- Carpeting and heavy drapes should be avoided for the simple reason that heavy fabrics and materials tend to trap in more moisture and also accumulate the common allergens which cause indoor pollution.
- Use of nontoxic cleaning products- The fragranced items like scented candles and so called air fresheners are loaded with toxins and act as respiratory irritants too. Use of natural cleaning products made from baking soda, citrus fruits like lemons and oranges, vinegar etc go a long way in keeping the house free of irritants contributing to indoor pollution.
- Keeping a few indoor plants like the peace lily, snake plant and spider plant are in vogue these days because they act as air purifiers and remove air pollutants from the surrounding air. Well, to get the desired results one needs to keep a handful of them in a room.
- Air purifiers are being used extensively to improve the quality of air inside our homes. They trap even small air pollutants and eliminate many toxic gases too.
- Last but not least, keeping one’s immune system healthy naturally goes a long way in combating the irritants in the air.