Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Indoor Air Pollution - A Major Health Risk Requiring Prompt Action


 Indoor air pollution is a problem faced by about 3 billion people around the world. There are many causes of indoor air pollution. Left unchecked, they can cause severe health conditions.

Many households have poor quality air because of pollutants such as tobacco smoke, harmful construction materials like asbestos, artificial fragrances, pesticides, chemicals from home cleaning products, and toxic gases emitted by cooking stoves. Other pollutants include dust, mold, fungi, and radon. Radon is a radioactive gas emitted by the soil and is actually the No. 2 cause of lung cancer in the United States.

The prevalence of these pollutants in homes varies based on a number of factors. For example, in rural areas where people use charcoal and crop residue to cook, toxic gases are a major indoor air pollutant. In towns and cities where people use gas stoves to cook, the levels of toxic emissions may be lower, but there is still a danger because of issues like improper stove set ups that lead to carbon monoxide leakage.

Similarly, houses in moist environments tend to have more mold than those in dry areas. Further, households that use cleaning products, air fresheners, and mosquito repellent coils expose themselves to high levels of toxic chemicals and resins.

Exposure to these pollutants causes health problems. These can either appear immediately or after some time. Immediate problems include eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation as well as headaches, fatigue, and dizziness. The pollutants often cause symptoms similar to those of a cold or flu.

The likelihood of a person experiencing these reactions depends on a number of things, such as their own sensitivity to toxins and the presence of pre-existing medical conditions. In other words, just because a person is not experiencing such reactions does not mean they are safe from or immune to the toxins. They should still take measures to remove pollutants from their indoor air, since-long term exposure can lead to severe medical conditions.

Long-term exposure to indoor air pollution is associated with respiratory diseases like pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Air pollution actually doubles the risk that a child will contract pneumonia, and is a contributing factor in many adult pneumonia cases. For COPD, air pollution is responsible for 25 percent of COPD-related deaths in low and middle-income countries. Air pollution has also been linked to 17 percent of lung cancer deaths.

While the respiratory system bears the biggest brunt of air pollution, other body systems are also affected. They include the endocrine and cardiovascular systems. Health professionals have associated air pollution with stroke, ischemic heart disease, cataracts, and nasopharyngeal cancer.

Given the many dangers of air pollution, homeowners should take precautions to keep pollutants out of their homes. The most effective way they can do this is by contracting a competent air quality inspector to inspect their home for pollutants and recommend corrective measures.

Generally, there are three major ways to enhance air quality in indoor environments: source control, ventilation, and air cleaners. Source control involves identifying the sources of specific pollutants and removing them. For example, if a home has mold, it could be because of high humidity in the air, so to remedy the situation, a homeowner should dehumidify the air.

Ventilation is another way to improve air quality. Simple ways to achieve ventilation include keeping windows and doors open when possible. In some cases, mechanical ventilation systems like air conditioning are necessary. Finally, air cleaners draw in, filter, and recirculate air.

Every household’s situation is unique and may require one or more approaches to improve air quality. A professional air quality inspector is well placed to guide homeowners on the appropriate measures to take.

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