8 Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution/Pollutants in Homes

People’s exposure to indoor air pollutants is believed to be substantial because they spend about 90% of their time indoors. Studies have proven that the indoor air in houses is frequently more contaminated than the ambient air that originally gets into houses from outside. The same might apply to your house.

Indoor air contamination has existed for as long as people have lived in enclosed areas: in caves, when cave dwellers breathed smoke from heating and cooking and heating fires; in buildings, structures, and enclosed environments of the Industrial Revolution when products of combustion and a variety of chemicals were being used; and during modern times when the most complex environmental and indoor air pollution problems are having a field day as a result of human activities.

The quantity of air going in and out of a home, building, or structure can contribute to the concentration and degree of pollution in it. The indoor air quality in your home, office, or property is affected by the cumulative effects of air pollutants in the surrounding ambient air plus the pollutants generated inside your home, office, or property due to moisture, dampness, flooding, rodents, insects, air fresheners, chemicals used for cleaning, waste materials, cigarette smoke, and other types of pollutants from furnaces, space heaters, fireplaces, stoves, space heaters, dehumidification systems, etc., and the cumulative impact of poor housekeeping, amongst other sources.

In the short- and long-run, indoor air pollutants could affect the nose, eye, and irritate the throat, and cause fatigue, headaches, nausea, dizziness, asthma, cancer, lung inflammation or pneumonitis, damage to various organs, and various types of sensitivities to chemical and biological substances.

Ambient air may consist of pollutants from outside the house; regardless, additional pollutants are generated within houses through the following most prominent sources of indoor air pollution or pollutants:

1. Asbestos materials

Asbestos may be found in homes: ceiling boards, roofing, siding shingles, and insulation. During removal, cutting, and sanding of asbestos products, its fibers and particles have the potential to become airborne and a health hazard; deterioration of asbestos products could also contribute to more health issues. If inhaled, asbestos can increase the risk of disease. The little asbestos fibers that are inhaled most frequently can accumulate in the lungs and cause abdominal cancers, chest cancers, and lung diseases.

2. Biological contaminants

Biological contaminants can be present in the home; they include: mildew, mold, bacteria, viruses, pollen, cat saliva, house dust mites, animal dander, cockroach droppings, rats, mice urine and droppings, and droppings of domestic animals.

Viruses and bacteria can cause disease(s) after they are unintentionally inhaled, ingested, or get in contact with the skin: biological contaminants can have a profound effect on asthma and cause allergic reactions such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis and allergic rhinitis.

A high rate of asthma can be associated with allergens that affect humans, including pet dander, dust mites, insect, dust, and rodent contaminant proteins which can be found in saliva, urine, dander, roach body parts, roach faeces, and mildew and mold which may release disease-causing toxins.

3. Combustion

The working heaters, wood and gas stoves, furnaces, unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, chimneys, fireplaces, and environmental tobacco smoke present in houses discharge respirable particles and gases such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde; these gases may cause nose, eye, and throat irritation, and dizziness, fatigue, headaches, bronchitis, respiratory infections, confusion, persistent coughs, irregular heartbeats, and lung cancer.

4. New Carpets

When a new carpet is installed in a home, it may discharge chemicals into indoor air and pollute it. Even the cleaning of old or older carpets can also discharge chemicals into indoor air. Discharge of chemicals can aggravate any existing disease symptoms or cause new symptoms to arise, especially in people who have existing lung diseases, asthma, and allergic reactions.

5. Environmental tobacco smoke

Environmental tobacco smoke, also known as secondhand smoke, is a combination of the smoke released from cigarette pipe, burning cigarette or cigar, and the smoke that is exhaled by smokers. Environmental tobacco smoke comprises of not less than 4,000 different substances, including not less than 50 that can cause cancer.

When secondhand smoke is inhaled in large quantities, it can increase the risk of nose, eye, and throat irritation; lower respiratory tract infections, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, middle ear infections, and increase in cardiovascular system diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer, and even death.

6. New houses

Whenever houses and the products within them are new, especially if there is high indoor temperature or humidity in the houses, a higher discharge of formaldehyde occurs much more than when the products get older. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause nausea, burning eyes and throat, watery eyes, and difficulty in breathing.

New items that contribute mostly to indoor air pollution in new homes include the pressed wood products used to create furniture, particle board and fibreboard, cabinets, panelling, subflooring, shelving, plywood, and any other substances that consist of resins with urea formaldehyde.

7. Household products

Various types of household products usually consist of some quantity of chemicals that are discharged into indoor air when used, stored, or disposed of. The products might include solvents, paints, stored fuels, candles, cleaning materials, varnishes, aerosol sprays, disinfectants, air fresheners, hobby materials, dry-cleaned clothing, etc.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released from many substances that are used indoors: cleaning supplies, pesticides, disinfectant residues, glues and adhesives, paints, waxes, cosmetics, air fresheners, printers, new furniture, new carpets, new walls, new shelving, new floors, etc. VOCs can enter into homes from outside, the ground, and water from any contamination around homes.

It has been reported that approximately 80% of human exposure to disinfectant residues and pesticides occurs indoors due to chemicals discharged to eliminate and control insects, fungi, rodents, viruses, and bacteria. In addition to indoor pollution is the entry of outside soil or dust that is contaminated by agricultural chemicals and pesticides applied in the field.

Depending on the chemical released by a household product, there may be no effect, or there may be a dangerous effect. Typical symptoms of health problems due to chemicals include visual problems, respiratory irritation, coma, loss of coordination, nausea, headaches, eye irritation, dizziness, unconsciousness/coma, light-headedness, and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system, and even death. Long-term problems may include cancer and genetic effects.

8. Uranium in the ground

The natural decay of uranium in the ground, soil, and rocks can cause the emission of radon (an odorless, colorless, tasteless, and invisible radioactive gas) which can enter the home through crevices and cracks in the foundations, floors, walls, and construction joints. Depending on the degree of uranium decay, concentrations of radon can build up and even find their way into the water supply of the home. When ingested, radon can cause lung cancer. Cigarette smoking can even aggravate the effects of radon gas which is believed to cause thousands of deaths yearly due to lung cancer.


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