According to various studies, it is now a proven fact that indoor air pollution is far more dangerous than outdoor pollution. In fact the effects of indoor air pollution is 5 times more drastic than outdoor pollution. The constituents of pollution in indoor spaces are formaldehyde, mildew, bacteria, odour, smoke, virus, pollen, gases, VOCs, PM2.5, pet dander, dust mite, paint fume etc.
Do you know what causes indoor air pollution at your home?
Carpets: Affecting you with their chemically infused smell
A lot of carpets, especially the new ones emit a famous scent, which is basically release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as toluene, formaldehyde, acetone etc. Exposure to these chemicals on a daily basis can lead to headaches, throat and eye irritation, allergies and drowsiness. The new ones also have naphthalene, a moth proofing chemical which could produce toxic reactions in new-borns. Meanwhile, old carpets produce dust mites and their droppings can create severe allergic reactions. Amongst all the offenders, the worst ones are the synthetic carpets that consist of nylon and olefin fibres. Exposure to all of these toxins at a significant level can lower your IQ, cause birth defects, decreased fertility and lead to diseases related to liver, kidneys, blood and ovaries.
Kitchen Stove: Poor ventilation in kitchen could cause severe damage
Gas stoves of any range are worrisome as they emit a lot of nitrogen dioxide gas which is usually created when fuel is burned at very high temperatures. Being a strong oxidizing agent, Nitrogen dioxide mixes with air to create several nitrate based pollutants. These pollutants can cause irritation of lungs and can lower your resistance to respiratory infections. According to EPA, exposure to these nitrates at a higher concentration than the normal levels may cause acute respiratory illness.
Household Cleaning Products: Beware of all the chemicals they contain
Cleaning your house thoroughly is a must to maintain good air quality but it can backfire if you use the conventional cleaning products that consist of harmful chemicals. The products that say “green” or even “organic” too contain certain ingredients that are injurious to health. The natural fragrance that these products give out can react with the air to produce dangerous pollutant indoors.However, conventional cleaning products are still the worst choice from cleaning your house. Most of these products consist of alcohol, chlorine, ammonia and petrol based solvents. These chemicals can cause irritation in the eyes or the throat and cause headaches. Few other cleaning products release VOCs, which are dangerous chemicals and they contribute to allergies, asthma and other respiratory diseases. Products that usually contain VOCs are aerosol sprays, rug and upholstery cleaners, chlorine bleach, oven cleaners and floor polishes.
Air Fresheners: Adding fragrance to the air at the cost of damaging it
Air fresheners do cover up for bad odour in the air but they do so at the cost of brutally damaging the indoor air quality as they emit toxic pollutants in the air. Many have compared the air quality after using a certain freshener to be equivalent to second hand smoke. The scientists at a reputed laboratory in California discovered that air fresheners contain compounds of ether at a significant level to cause neurological disorders, fatigue, tremor, anemia and nausea. The compounds of ether and ether itself are classified as hazardous by the EPA.
Candles and incense sticks: Source of liver damage and neurological problems
Candles that are made from paraffin, vegetable oil, soy and beeswax emit chemicals that have been accused of causing liver damage, neurological problems, respiratory problems and also leukaemia. Candles are by-product of petroleum and coal and they are whitened with industrial standard bleach and solidified with acrolein which is a compound known to cause lung cancer.
The expensive colourful ones that let out a soothing fragrance would start to make you uncomfortable if you knew that the fragrance and dyes contain plasticizers and solvents that are toxic to every human being.
Ventilation: Lower ventilation can choke you with indoor air pollution
Any house that does not manage air exchange adequately is prone to high indoor humidity that leads to mould growth. In winters, inadequate ventilation gives rise to both moisture and humidity. Lower ventilation also leads to high concentration of indoor air pollutants arising from other sources. In absence of satisfactory air exchange, the air pollutants may cause drastic health hazards to the occupants.
Dust and Shoe Debris: Source of dust mites, mould and other insects
Dust is a major contributor to indoor air pollution and although it settles down once it enters through the windows, it is again ejected into the air every time we sweep or broom the house. Once the dust particles are in the air, they can enter our body while breathing and may cause hazards. Settled dust particles are also injurious as they form the breeding ground for mould and lead to formation of dust mites and other insects.
According to EPA, heightened level of interaction with sources of outdoor pollution occurs at home due to debris brought in through shoes. We walk around outdoors, dragging lead dust, fertilizers and animal waste. These tracked in air pollutants lead to health risks associated with air pollution.
Paint: You need to eliminate VOCs from your house
Paint on the walls can do significant damage to your lungs and brain for that matter. People who live in old houses may still have lead paint. It continue to harm occupants of the house even after several years. The paint starts chipping off from the walls and turns into microscopic particles that become a part of the indoor dust you breathe. The smell of new paint is also harmful as the smell is the result of off-gassing of VOCs. The health risk of these paint are headaches, asthma, nausea, fatigue, allergy, memory impairment etc.
Pet Dander: Don’t let your adorable pets contribute to indoor air pollution
Common household pets like dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters and birds have an epidermal layer of skin that sheds. The outermost layer of skin, is composed entirely of dead skin cells. Flakes of skin (mostly microscopic) pull off the top layer and mix into the pet’s hair or feathers. When the pet scratches or cleans itself, the flakes spread into the air and disperse throughout the home. This is called pet dander.
Animal hair by itself is not an allergen. However, hair collects pet dander, dust and pollen, which can all cause allergic reactions. According to studies published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, scientific journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAA&I) up to 10% of the general population and 40% of allergic individuals react to cats and dogs.
How to ward off indoor air pollution at home with air purifiers?
Air Purifiers consist of various filters that almost negate the indoor pollutants and return the air quality to safer levels. While there are many air purification filters that are used in air purifiers, there are only some that are very relevant to air purification at home. While it’s good to have several filters, the filters that are must are Activated Carbon Filter, HEPA filter and Ultraviolet.
A HEPA filter and Activated Carbon filter does the job of completely removing smoke and harmful gases from the air and reduce indoor air pollution.
Activated Carbon Filter: When carbon is treated with oxygen, it causes numerous tiny pores to open up on the surface of the carbon. These pores are so many in number that one pound of activated carbon provides 60-150 acres of surface area with the objective to trap pollutants. The activated carbon filter works by the principal of adsorption where a gas element bonds with the surface of a solid. The solid material here being the activated carbon, which absorbs airborne pollutants equivalent to 60% of its weight. Once the air borne particles are absorbed by the filter, only the pure air flows out.
HEPA: A HEPA filter is always used in combination with an activated carbon filter to achieve highly efficient air filtration. The result being removal of wide array of air borne pollutants and asthma triggers like dust mites, pollen, mould, pet dander etc. The HEPA filter alone is the most efficient filter for people suffering from allergies and asthma. It removes 99.97% of airborne irritants which are of the size 0.3 microns.
Ultraviolet tube with PCO: The Ultraviolet filters are a new technology used to remove substantial amount of microbes from the air. The filter kills the bacterial pollutants in the air with ultraviolet light that incinerates the bacteria passing through it. This filter focuses on helping people who suffer from asthma, lung diseases and allergies.