9 Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

While we know a great deal about outdoor air pollution, the related problem of indoor air pollution is not so widely discussed, although it can have very serious consequences. Indoor air pollution is caused by the build up of contaminants within the home, and has been with human beings since the beginnings of civilisation—early cavemen have been shown to suffer from the effects of smoke deposits in caves—but it is now a more severe problem.

In the last 40 years, people have become aware that indoor air pollution is widespread. Since industrialisation, western people have spent between 65 and 90 percent of their hours indoors; a great deal of that time is spent at home.

Indoor air pollution

  1. Gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen are formed inside the home, and contribute to lung problems, bronchitis, and lung cancer—a build up of carbon monoxide in a home can begin with flu-like symptoms, and end with death.
  2. Tobacco smoke, as well as damaging the lungs of the smoker, can also be a source of indoor air pollution. Children of smokers often breathe in this smoke, and may suffer ear and eye infections, respiratory problems such as asthma, and even lung cancer if the smoke is over a large area.
  3. Formaldehyde, famous for preserving human tissue, can be a destructive indoor air pollution problem. It can cause throat and eye irritation, allergic reactions, and death in high concentrations. Keeping the humidity level low is one way of preventing formaldehyde air pollution.
  4. Volatile gas products are produced by everyday household products, and cause respiratory tract inflammation, damage to kidney and nervous systems, and loss of co-ordination. These problems can be avoided by following instructions carefully, and using in rooms where windows and doors are wide open.
  5. The use of pesticides by keen gardeners has exposed them to risks of rash, central nervous system problems, kidney damage, cancer and death. It is better to avoid this source of indoor air pollution by using non-chemicals, and avoiding storage of pesticides in the house.
  6. Gas and kerosene heaters are a source of indoor air pollution in the form of gases—a blocked or malfunctioning gas heater can produce carbon monoxide, a deadly, odourless and tasteless gas that builds up inside the body. Gas appliances need to be regularly maintained in order to avoid this problem, and it is important to change filters regularly in heating systems and air conditioners.
  7. Wood products such as fibreboard, insulation, textiles, car exhausts, and stoves and fireplaces all emit levels of formaldehyde. Avoiding heating wood and glue products is important to avoiding the production of formaldehyde.
  8. Paints and sprays, cleaners and air fresheners all produce volatile liquids that can cause serious illness. These items should only be used in areas with good ventilation, and they should never be deliberately inhaled.
  9. Garden chemicals, bug sprays and weed killer can result in indoor air pollution—these chemicals should never be sprayed in confined areas, and instructions on the label should be followed closely.