The word ‘pollution’ usually invokes images of smoggy city-skylines and industrial power stations, but what about the pollution we don’t see?
The air we breathe inside our homes may actually contain pollutants of its own. Invisible, but no less hazardous – accounting for an estimated one-third of our nation’s health bill.
The good news is that with some simple precautions, you can ensure the air in your home stays clean. Before we find out how to prevent indoor air pollution, let’s take a quick look at what it is and what causes it.
Indoor air pollution is the accumulation of hazardous airborne substances within a building or structure, sometimes to toxic levels. It is mostly caused by inadequate ventilation, malfunctioning appliances, and various chemicals within the home. Indoor air pollutants can have a wide range of health effects. From headaches and fatigue, to asthma and other respiratory problems. In the most severe cases, the can even cause death.
Common indoor air pollutants:
- Radon – a byproduct of decomposing radium found in the ground beneath buildings. Radon gas seeps through cracks in walls and foundations. https://www.skymetweather.com/content/weather-news-and-analysis/severe-air-pollution-may-lead-to-birth-defects-and-fatalities-during-pregnancy-study/ It’s the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
- Carbon Monoxide – comes from fuel-burning appliances such as gas stoves and water-heaters that are not properly installed and ventilated. This gas interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body.
- Dusts and Mold – an abundance of dust or mold build-up is usually due to inadequate ventilation. These types of particles can trigger wheezing and shortness of breath, and contribute to the epidemic of asthma, as well as pulmonary disease.
- Volatile Organic Compounds – compounds found in household cleaners, pesticides, paints/lacquers/varnishes, equipment, and building materials that evaporate into the air. These can cause adverse reactions and damage the central nervous system.
The Global Scale of Indoor Pollution
On a worldwide level, the human health impact is staggering. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 2 million people die every year from an illness directly attributed to their indoor environment. Half of pneumonia related deaths in young children are caused by inhalation of particle matter found indoors.
The health risks of indoor air pollution are greater for people living in the poorer developing countries of the world. It’s estimated that about 3 billion people worldwide still use open fuel sources, or burn biomass to cook and heat their homes. In their homes, the concentration of hazardous particles can be 100 times more than the standards established for safe air.
This doesn’t mean that indoor air pollution is of no concern for a modern residential home. The American Medical Association has estimated that over thirty percent of our national health bill may be attributable to indoor air pollution. If you’re wondering about the quality of the air in your home, you are not alone. Many people are testing to see if pollutants are present, and making improvements to their homes to minimize pollutant buildup.