According to WHO, 4.3 million people a year die from the exposure to household air pollution. Source
Shocking! Isn’t it? If you are on this page and not an acquaintance of mine, you are probably looking for answers. They could be about Indoor pollution or a certain ailment that could have resulted from Indoor pollutants.
The first time I got to know of indoor pollution, I didn’t give much importance to it. As long as the home was well ventilated, indoor pollution wasn’t really a topic for discussion. Or so I thought. I mean, to what extent could there be any dust, smoke or pollution indoors compared to outdoors, right?
Indoor pollution is a thing; a very serious one at that. This new information took me places within the web. A glimpse at the pollutants, the causes and solution could give you the answers you are looking for and help you be more careful in future.
WHAT ARE THE CONTRIBUTORS OF INDOOR POLLUTION?
1. Molds – We Indians, specially we Keralites blessed with abundance of rainfall, are way too familiar with molds. They are a part of our daily lives. You may not believe me, but the other day, I was thinking how these molds added beauty to the walls amidst all the greenery here (Kochi). Um… no! I definitely don’t think they look good indoors.
These molds release spores in the air, land on damp surfaces and multiply. Skin contact with them or breathing them could cause itching, sneezing, runny nose, red eyes etc. Hm… think of all those unnecessary allergies, untimely sneezes and itching that you or people around you are familiar with. The molds could even partly contribute to Asthma or aggravate the same in patients suffering from it.
How to Get Rid of Molds?
Find the source of mold, clean it, and prevent it from resurfacing. There are various ways of clearing out mold.
- Spray Vinegar on the wall, leave it for an hour and then wipe it off.
- Mix 1 Tsp. of Tea tree oil in one mug of water. Spray it on the surface and leave it overnight to kill the mold. Scrub the area later on with the solution to clean the surface.
- Use Hydrogen Peroxide instead of Tea tree oil in the same combination as above. After scrubbing the surface, leave a layer of the solution on the surface to avoid the mold from returning
2. Volatile Organic Components (VOCs) – VOCs are carbon containing compounds that evaporate into the air, react with the elements therein and pollute the environment. Present in cleaning supplies, pesticides, moth repellents, air fresheners and so on, VOCs could be responsible for eye, nose and throat irritation, dizziness, nausea etc. Certain rare cases could lead to damage to kidneys, liver, and even cancer.
Remember that chemical fragrance of a newly painted home that you inhale with so much joy? Those wall paints contain VOCs too. Yes! They’re used to improve the product shelf life, enhance texture, increase the color variants, and for many more properties. But how harmful could a mere paint be? I asked myself this question.
Indoor VOC levels are, in general, many times higher than outer levels. You are right. The levels are the highest during and immediately after painting. Yet, it could be said that only 50% of the VOCs maybe released from your wall paints after the first year. You (and I) might be inhaling them right now, while reading (Writing) this.
How to Reduce exposure to VOCs?
Getting rid of VOCs isn’t easy, but you could definitely reduce them. Here is how;
- Choose safer products instead of picking up just about anything off the supermarket shelf. Choose products containing low or no VOCs.
- Consider making your own household cleaners.
- Use paints that contain low or No VOCs. The paint industry is very much aware of the hazards and we do have several companies coming up with paints complying with the Green Seal (GS-11) Standards when it comes to reducing VOC content.
- Ensure that you do not store open containers of products containing VOCs indoors.
- Increase ventilation while using products containing VOCs
3. Biological Contaminants
I’m about to list a variety of familiar pollutants that you might have overlooked in your household:
- Pollens from plants – They are present in the air and drift in through the windows.
- Animal dander – Scales from hair, feathers or skin of animals.Contaminants from rodents, cockroaches and other insects – Do not discount the harm roaches could cause. People could be allergic to roaches and it could result in continuous sneezing and allergies.
Reducing Biological Contamination
Biological contaminants can be reduced through regular cleaning as the contamination occurs on a daily basis due to living beings:
- Mites, animal dander, pollens etc could be reduced through regular cleaning.
- Take preventive or corrective steps to get rid of roaches and mites frequently.
- Identify damp or wet areas and take actions to reduce the dampness and keep it clean.
The common combustion pollutants are resultant from burning fuel namely LPG, oil, kerosene, wood, coal etc. The types and amount of pollutants vary with each appliance. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are the major pollutants released, and they are to be taken seriously. The former causes headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea while the latter could cause eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath etc. Carbon Monoxide poisoning isn’t unheard of.
At this point, let me bring to your attention another pollutant that we don’t consider at all – Incense sticks. My grandmother had this chronic cough that lasted for over a year. My aunt, a doctor, asked my grandmother not to light those incense sticks and in two days, the cough reduced. Shocker?
How to Reduce Combustion Pollutants?
Use vented appliances with ducts or pipes that carry the pollutants outdoors. Select, install and maintain appliances with utmost care. Read up before purchasing any Combustion appliances.
As we spend a majority of our day indoors (be it at office or at home), we breathe and live in the indoor air which is 5 times more polluted than the outdoor air. You cannot discount the importance of choosing a good paint for your walls. It isn’t just about the finish or the color. These days, we have paints that releases fragrance, absorbs bad odour like that of cigarettes, garlic etc. They provide activated carbon technology that helps purify the air and have to confirm to strict international environmental and safety standards. For instance, Asian Paints’ Royale Atmos is one of the products that focuses on all the above properties. Choosing the right paint and regular, careful cleaning could do wonders to reduce air pollution indoors.