Pollution has been a burning topic in today's time following immense hazardous effect on the environment including the human race. Much has been already written and talked about the various factors about external pollution. Pollution within the four walls of a house has also been a buzzing topic especially in the developing countries due to the rising mortality rate and the huge burden of disease. In countries like India, around one billion people die every year due to indoor air pollution where majority of people in rural India use solid fuel as energy source. Across the globe, there are around three billion people who use solid fuels for their various energy needs especially for cooking (WHO sources). Indoor air contains high range of health hazardous pollutants which can be extremely harmful. Many countries in the west have developed guidelines and norms on the level of emission of pollutants from home appliances to lessen the health hazard of in house air pollution. This has been mandatory for every household. But there are still countries like India where there are no standard norms. Therefore, the magnitude of the problem is quite alarming. The issue of household air pollution has been disastrous for both rural and urban household. In cities too, the problem is a health scare following rise in mortality cases. Living in an urban zone myself, I would like to concentrate more on the issue in urban household.
Nowadays, cities are usually overcrowded; urban housing is usually overfilled, congested with people having less freedom of movement as far as space is concerned. Whenever household pollutants are concerned, there are ample reasons which can be the potential sources. In every household, cooking is one of the most important activities. Cooking mediums like gas stoves, heaters, woodstoves, fireplace, solid fuels and many more of them. All of them are sources of emission of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon particles and other pollutants. Most of the household products like cleaning products, detergents, paint, furniture polishing, hobby products, and pesticides contain volatile, organic chemicals, formaldehyde, polychlorinated biphenyl, fragrances and asbestos which are potentially hazardous to human health. Artificial air fresheners, scents and fragrance are derived from petroleum products and have many chemicals and gases which can be very harmful to human health. Interestingly, some gases like radon, a radioactive gas, found in almost all soil which is actually a natural decay of uranium is also a health scare. It can enter inside the houses through cracks or holes in the foundation and sometimes through building material and water supply system. Again, a damp warm environment inside homes may lead to growth of bacteria, viruses, moulds, dust mites and pollen which are biological sources of pollution. Poor ventilation system can lead to pollution of unvented smoke emitted from smokers and chimneys. Tobacco smoke can be emitted from burning of pipe; cigar or cigarette can be very disastrous to health. Then, there are places inside the house like in kitchen, washrooms, bathtub, cupboard, shelves which have warmed and damp environment can lead to the growth of contaminants like moulds, bacteria, viruses and also cockroaches and mites which are again hazardous to health. Houses with pets and pet belongings can have allergens, moulds, mites which are also hazardous to human beings. Nowadays, urban housing is compact; airtight so the pollutants remain trapped inside the homes for a long time thereby increase the risk of hazard manifold.
Therefore, within the house, the potential sources of pollution are plenty. Every individual living inside the house can be affected. Individuals like elderly, young children and sick people whose immune systems are compromised; the potential danger is even higher. A wide variety of diseases like allergies, asthma, bronchitis, thyroid problems, reproductive issues and upper respiratory disorders can be caused due to indoor air pollution. Already affected individuals with asthma and allergy within in house pollution can be flared up with utter consequences. Commonly emitting gases from cooking like carbon mono oxide, nitrous oxide can cause eye, ear, throat infections, headache, angina, and damage to liver, kidney and also various types of cancers. Pollutant like cigarette smoke contains many harmful chemicals which increase the risk of diseases like respiratory infections, asthma, ear infections and even lung cancer to both smokers and passive smokers who inhale such smoke. High exposure of pesticides, lead can cause harmful effects on young children causing damage to brain and central nervous system. Pollutant like asbestos increases the risk of pneumonia, mesotheliomas and lung cancer. Radon inhaled in air and ingested through polluted water supply can increase the risk of both lung and stomach cancer. Certain type of air cleaners used in household can emit ozone which can be potentially damaging to lung and can cause breathing difficulty. Phthalates found in plastics, PVC (Polyvinyl chloride), children toys, personal care products can cause respiratory problems, reproductive issues in adults and developmental issues in young children. Several factors in today's time make this problem of in house pollution very important and needed to be given much attention. Unlike, decades ago, where the housing were very spacious and open with lot of doors, windows, modern houses are compact, airtight and less spacious, the sources are plenty and people tend to spend more time indoor, therefore, the degree of in house pollution is also very high.
We cannot change the environment or completely remove the potential sources and nor can we change the urban housing pattern. The only solution left with us is to control the sources within the four walls of our house by simple ways. Basically, we need to keep the air inside the house clean and fresh, dearth of moisture. A dehumidifier helps to remove moisture from inside the house which can otherwise lead to growth of biological pollutants. Houses with proper ventilation like exhaust fan in kitchen and washrooms are very useful. Air conditioning with proper filters can also act as dehumidifier and ventilators. Leakage of water, filthy drainage in any corner of the house should be urgently repaired. Over watering of plant pots inside the house should be avoided. Some plants namely aloe vera, fern or spider plants can act as natural air purifier should be preferably kept. We should keep the air inside the house as natural as possible. For this, we can use cleaning products, detergents, laundry products and other house hold products as naturally scented as possible. Regular mopping and cleaning of floors with micro fibre mops can pick up the dust and allergens and keep the floor fresh. Vacuum cleaners with strong suction and HEPA filters should be used for furnishings, doors, windows and carpets for sucking of dusts regularly. Smoking of cigarette inside the house should not be allowed at all because it is disastrous not only to the smoker himself and as well as to those members who inhale such smoke, especially children. Sometime, some areas and houses do have problem of radioactive gas pollution like that of radon. In that case, sealing of crakes and holes inside the house is very necessary. Daily opening of windows and doors are required for fresh air ventilation. The most important way to remove such gases inside the house is the use of energy recovery ventilators. Such powerful ventilators are used to ventilate every corner of the house and also remove gases like radon by letting in the outside air in the process of heating or cooling the incoming air and the inside air being exhausted and removed in the process.
Researchers and studies are going on. In recent times, new devices and methods are developed and new solutions come up each day which helps us to deal with the issue of in house pollution in a better, improved way. I think we should be more aware and learn to adopt new ways apart from our traditional methods of cleaning, so that the problem can be better controlled though cannot be eliminated.
About Author / Additional Info:
An experienced Medical Professional enthusiastic in writing on health related issues.