Whenever we think or talk about ‘Air Pollution, the topic or conversation usually diverts to what goes outside the dwellings or buildings. But, you have to believe that Indoor Air Pollution is as deadly as its outdoor counterpart. According to a report by the interdisciplinary journal Lancet Planetary Health, Indoor, or household, air pollution caused 64 percent fewer deaths in the last two decades (2000-2019) in India. According to the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986, the levels of indoor air pollutants are often 2-5 times higher than outdoor levels. In some cases, these levels can exceed the outdoor levels of the same pollutants 100 times. Several toxic air pollutants that are considered important in ambient (outdoor) air, are also found, sometimes at higher levels, in indoor air.
With the incessant improvement in our quality of life, indoor air quality has become an important area of concern in the 21st century. It is affected by several factors, including the type and running conditions of indoor pollution sources, ventilation conditions, as well as indoor activities. On #Worldhealthday 2021, we look at 5 serious health impacts posed by this silent killer i.e., Indoor Air Pollution.
5 Serious Health Impacts Posed By Indoor Air Pollution
The following are 5 of the most common and serious health impacts posed by household/indoor air pollution:
1. Acute Respiratory Infections
By now we have substantial evidence that exposure to smoke in the home upsurges the risk of acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) in young children, predominantly pneumonia. Indoor pollution causes more than half of all deaths from pneumonia in children under 5 years of age.
2. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
CPOD or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive and incompletely reversible airflow barrier. Indoor pollution is an important risk factor for COPD, and one of the most important causes of COPD in those who fall in the non-smoking category.
3. Lung Diseases/Cancer
The size of the Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 pollutant is 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Such tiny particulate matter can easily pass the throat’s natural barriers and enter our body, this makes it extremely dangerous for the human body. Owing to this, degraded indoor air can cause serious damage to lung development and pose an additional risk of developing lung diseases.
4. Cardiovascular Disease
A group of researchers, from the University of Washington School of Public Health, have found a stout link between exposure to bad quality air and increasing risk for heart diseases. According to the findings, lifestyle factors exposure to high levels of air pollution may increase the risk of heart disease by lowering the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), normally known as the “good” cholesterol.
5. Eye Ailments
Cataracts, one of the most common eye ailments and a leading cause of blindness in adults. Strong evidence has seen that air pollution is associated with cataract formation. Epidemiological studies provide strong evidence that household air pollution exposure is associated with cataract formation, and may be responsible for up to one-quarter of the total disease burden from cataracts.
Indoor air pollution has been claiming innumerable lives and increasingly becoming a major cause of concern not only in India but worldwide.
According to statistics, 68% of the sufferer’s varies diseases are relevant to indoor pollution, such as the aging of skin, hair shedding, general fatigue, forgetfulness, infertility, leukemia, and cancer. The latest statics from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the disease laid at indoor pollution shows that 35.7% of the respiratory diseases are caused by the indoor environment. And 22% of chronic disease, 5% of bronchial catarrh, 5% of cancer, and 5% of leukemia are caused by indoor pollution.
According to WHO the sources of indoor pollution come from four factors:
- Building materials
- Household electrical appliances
- Soot from cooking
The findings according to modern science suggest that building and decorating materials are the main source of indoor pollution.
Indoor Air Quality + The COVID Effect
Particles of PM 2.5–fine inhalable particulate matter that can easily enter our bloodstreams are emitted when solid biomass like charcoal, dung, and wood is burnt for heating/cooking. According to WRI India’s calculations, around 78 percent of India’s massive population uses these solid fuels for their primary and secondary needs.
Astoundingly, about half a million Indians die prematurely every single year due to diseases caused by poor indoor air quality; these include heart disease, strokes, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer. Sadly, women and young children, and the elderly are significantly affected.
Newborn and under-five children are the most vulnerable, with their underdeveloped lungs. Indoor air pollution caused 66,800 deaths of under-five children in India in 2016, 10% more than 60,900 deaths of under-five children caused by outdoor air pollution in the same year, according to a study by the WHO, IndiaSpend reported in October 2018.
Most Indians rejoiced over clear, pollution-free skies during the nationwide lockdown that was imposed last year to contain COVID-19, but they paid little attention to Indoor air that grew more dangerous during this time.
The nationwide lockdown from March 25, 2020, saw more meals being cooked at home than usual, which led to an almost 2 percent or about 150 tons per day–increase in total household PM 2.5 emissions in our country, according to the preliminary findings of a yet-to-be-published study by the World Resources Institute (WRI) India. Additionally, with an estimated 50 percent of the country’s population that is normally away during peak cooking hours being confined indoors, the total number of people being affected by dangerous air quality has also surged pointedly.
Building Materials And Indoor Air
People live indoors mostly in their lives. If statistics are to be believed, then modern people spend nearly 85 to 90 percent of 24 hours in whole life. Hence, indoor air condition becomes the very focus that people need to pay attention to in their everyday lives.
These days, many people are under sub-health conditions. And this can be directly contributed to the pressure of people’s daily work and hastening pace of life. Additionally, environmental quality is turning from bad to worse. Indoor air pollution has caused major damage to people’s health and has dramatically impacted their lives.
Coming to indoor pollution caused by building materials is another topic of serious concern. These days people are not just suffering noise, water, and vehicle pollution, but also the indoor environment pollution that is increasing with building and materials. And this kind of pollution is much more serious and will cause a series of illness on human being. Indoor pollution has become the stealthy assassin to human beings.
We keep on encouraging builders and designers to plan and construct buildings which are friendly to the environment, greener, energy-efficient, and can adapt to its surrounding; and most importantly it reduces the overall impact of the built environment on human health and nature. But how do they do that?
Mindful Material Selection Is The Answer.
For interior surfaces, designers typically select materials that are high performance, durable, and impart the desired acoustical performance and aesthetic qualities. But, here the most important parameter should be “protecting the indoor air quality and health”.
Conventional building materials, furniture, and equipment; interior building materials like carpets, cabinets, paints, sealants and caulking, adhesives, floor, tiles, molding, woodwork, and composite wood products – contain contaminants that are progressively emitted throughout the life of the material poisoning the indoor air quality.
From an indoor air quality viewpoint, the designer needs to select materials which:
- Demand minimal or no use of toxic, low-VOC, coating constituents, and water-based adhesives
- Emit little or no odor
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Are not susceptible to moisture damage that increases the potential of mold growth
Heard of Porotherm Bricks? These are pollutant-free, and a Green building material certified by international environment authorities GRIHA & IGBC. They are a permeable building material, which allows better air circulation and provides for healthy indoor air quality.
Air pollution is the cause of over one-third of deaths from stroke, lung disease/cancer, heart diseases, respiratory infections, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases across the globe: WHO.
This #WorldHealthDay let’s pledge to make mindful choices when it comes to materials selection for building. Let’s build for good health…