10 Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Knowing the sources of indoor air pollution is of prime importance because it would help us to know how to curb indoor pollution.

Smog, power plants, and pollutants from vehicles and trucks are likely to come to mind when you think of air pollution. Human health is greatly harmed by air pollution, and children are particularly vulnerable.

Most of us are aware of the dangers of air pollution outside our houses, but indoor air pollution might be much more deadly. Indoor air pollution occurs when pollutants such as gases and particulates infiltrate the air inside a building.

Indoor air pollution can range from dust and pollen to hazardous gases and radiation. It can be two to five times more concentrated inside our houses than outdoors, causing major health concerns such as headaches, nausea, heart difficulties, lung problems, and even cancer.

If you notice mildew or strange aromas in your home, investigate instead of masking the problem with an air freshener. It can irritate the nasal passageways and bronchial tubes, and it could be hiding a more serious disease.

Many gases and fumes in your home are sources of indoor air pollution, and they are both colorless and odorless. They can be damaging to human health, so avoid bringing in extra agents that can produce toxic fumes if at all possible. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful even at room temperature, causing headaches, nausea, asthma, and even cancer.

Avoid goods composed of pressed woods, such as particleboard, and choose low- or no-VOC paints and cleansers. If you must use a VOC-containing product, make sure to open a window to allow for more ventilation in your home.

Dust and other pollutants tend to collect into upholstery and carpeting whether you have a dog or a cat, so vacuuming regularly is a good idea to keep these to a minimum.

Around 2.6 billion people cook on polluting open fires or rudimentary stoves powered by kerosene, biomass (wood, animal dung, and agricultural waste), and coal, according to the WHO.

What is Indoor Air Pollution?

According to the OECD,

“Indoor air pollution refers to chemical, biological and physical contamination of indoor air. It may result in adverse health effects. In developing countries, the main source of indoor air pollution is biomass smoke which contains suspended particulate matter (5 PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (Ca), formaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).”

Indoor air pollution is the presence of particles such as dust, grime, or poisons in indoor air, which is frequently created by the indoor combustion of solid fuels.

Causes of Indoor Air Pollution

The causes of indoor air pollution comprise of both the chemical and biological agents that cause indoor air pollution and some of them include

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Asbestos
  • Fiberglass 
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Radon
  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)
  • Biological Agents
  • Mold

1. Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is the most harmful pollutant, as it may kill you in just a few hours. Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that has no odor or flavor. It occurs when fuels such as gas, oil, coal, or wood do not burn completely. Cooking and heating appliances should be repaired regularly, and vents and chimneys should not be obstructed.

A malfunctioning appliance may produce much more soot. Every room where fuel is used should have a carbon monoxide alarm installed. The first indication of mild carbon monoxide poisoning is a headache. You may also get flu-like symptoms without the fever.

2. Formaldehyde

Another major source of indoor air pollution is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas that has a distinctively unpleasant odor. Due to a 1970 ban, it is no longer manufactured in the United States, but it can still be found in paints, sealants, and wood flooring. Formaldehyde is used as a permanent glue in carpets and upholstery.

3. Asbestos

Asbestos poses numerous health concerns to the lungs. Asbestos-containing materials may still be present in older homes. Asbestos was commonly used in buildings for insulation, flooring, and roofing, as well as sprayed on ceilings and walls before its risks were discovered. Lung disorders such as asbestosis and mesothelioma can be caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. If you discover asbestos in your home, keep it undisturbed.

4. Fiberglass 

Fiberglass is a type of insulation used in construction. When asbestos is disturbed, it becomes part of the airborne dust and is easily inhaled. Fiberglass is less dangerous than asbestos, yet it still poses a risk if inhaled. It can irritate the airways, and breathing it in can make your symptoms worse if you have a lung problem. Don’t mess with fiberglass if you have it in your house. Wear a mask and protective gear if you come into touch with it.

5. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Roofing and flooring materials, insulation, cement, coating materials, heating equipment, soundproofing, plastics, glue, and plywood are all examples of building products that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Chemicals known as volatile organic compounds can sometimes be found in cleaning and decorating products (VOCs). It’s best to stay away from VOCs, as well as items containing bleach or ammonia.

VOCs can be present in a variety of goods, including

  • Laundry detergents
  • Polish for furniture
  • Air fresheners
  • Deodorants, and scents
  • Fungicides, insecticides
  • Carpet cleaners
  • Paints and paint removers
  • Varnishes and adhesives

6. Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is found in granite rocks and soil. It’s a colorless, odorless substance. The amount of radon in the air we breathe is quite low outside, but it can be much higher inside improperly ventilated buildings. Long-term exposure to high levels of radiation may increase your risk of lung cancer.

Radon can enter your building through the earth and disperse into the air. Radon emits radiation when it decays, which can cling to dust particles and enter the lungs, causing damage. Although it may seem surprising, surveys have revealed that indoor radon levels are an order of magnitude higher than those found outside.

7. Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)

The mixture of smoke that emerges from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, as well as smoke exhaled by the smoker, is known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).

8. Biological Agents

Animal dander, saliva, urine, bacteria, cockroaches, house dust mites, mildew, molds, pollen, and viruses are examples of biological agents.

9. Mold

Mold is a fungus that grows from spores that stick to wet spots in structures. It digests the materials it comes into contact with and can grow on a variety of surfaces. It thrives in humid conditions and is particularly frequent in the winter and more humid areas.

Mold can take on a range of characteristics due to the several species of fungus that generate it. Mold might be white, black, green, or yellow, and its texture can be silky, fuzzy, or scratchy.

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

There are numerous sources of indoor air pollution, some of which are easily identifiable owing to their odor, but many more that go unnoticed.

1. Candles

Candles are one of the sources of indoor air pollution. Most candles, as charming as they are, will damage your home with hazardous fumes and sediments. Whether the candle is made of paraffin, vegetable oil, soy, or beeswax makes no difference.

All candles produce soot carbon particles into the air while they burn, which can cause respiratory difficulties. Burning paraffin candles emit high levels of benzene and toluene, both recognized carcinogens, into the air, according to studies. The majority of candles sold in large stores are composed of paraffin.

2. Air Fresheners

Air fresheners are one of the sources of indoor air pollution. The majority of store-bought air fresheners produce dangerous pollutants at levels that could be harmful to your health. They include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can irritate your lungs and increase your chances of getting allergies or asthma. Your airways are likely to be inflamed if you have a lung ailment. Many environmentalists relate their toxicity to secondhand smoke.

Many top-selling air fresheners, according to experts at U.C. Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, include considerable levels of ethylene-based glycol ethers, which have been linked to neurological and blood consequences such as weariness, nausea, tremor, and anemia. The EPA and the California Air Resources Board have designated these ethers as harmful air pollutants.

3. Dryer Sheets

Among the sources of indoor air pollution, we have dryer sheets. Many people enjoy the scent of fresh-from-the-dryer laundry. Have you ever wondered how those dryer sheets function?

Dryer sheets have a waxy feel to them. That waxy surfactant is made up of a combination of quaternary ammonium salt (related to asthma), silicon oil, or stearic acid (produced from animal fat) that melts in the dryer to coat your garments. In other words, your materials aren’t truly softer—they’re merely coated in a fatty film to make you believe they are.

According to findings from a 2011 study, air vented from machines utilizing the most popular scented laundry detergents and dryer sheets contains over 25 volatile organic compounds, including seven harmful air pollutants.

The Environmental Protection Agency has designated two of these compounds, acetaldehyde, and benzene, as known carcinogens for which there is no safe exposure limit.

4. Cleaning Products

Cleaning products is one of the sources of indoor air pollution. cleaning products have a bad reputation for polluting indoor air. Commercial cleaning supplies, particularly those with a strong odor, frequently contain dangerous chemicals such as alcohol, chlorine, ammonia, or petroleum-based solvents, all of which can affect your health, irritate your eyes or throat, or create headaches.

Some cleaning chemicals emit hazardous Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which can aggravate allergies, asthma, and other respiratory disorders. Most aerosol sprays, chlorine bleach, rug, and upholstery cleaners, furniture and floor polish, and oven cleaners all contain VOCs.

5. Carpet

Carpets are also one of the sources of indoor air pollution. Indoor contaminants are easily absorbed by carpets, which absorb mold spores, smoke particles, allergies, and other dangerous things. While some may argue that trapping pollutants in carpets keep people safe, pollutants trapped in carpets can be easily disturbed just by walking on them.

Some new carpets also include naphthalene, a moth-proofing chemical that has been linked to hazardous effects, particularly in neonates. Some carpets also contain p- Dichlorobenzene, a carcinogen that has been linked to embryonic malformations in animal studies.

Dust mites (and their droppings) will enter your carpet over time, even if older carpets no longer emit toxins. Many people are allergic to dust mite droppings, and scientists are only now beginning to link dust mite exposure to asthma.

When we track contaminated soil, heavy metals, and pesticides from outdoors on our shoes, we also add poisons to our carpets. Almost any harmful material we use around or in our homes can settle into carpet fibers and then disseminate into the air.

6. Kitchen Stove

It should be clearly known that kitchen stove is one of the sources of indoor air pollution knowing that they produce gaseous fumes everytime they are used. Particulate matter (PM) is released when wood and coal are burned on a stove or an open fire. A poorly ventilated kitchen can pollute the air in your home significantly. This can irritate your nose and throat, causing a cough or difficulty breathing.

When you use gas to heat or cook, tiny particles of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) are released into the air you breathe. Gas, on the other hand, is far cleaner to burn than coal or wood. On average, coal combustion creates 125 times more sulfur dioxide than gas combustion.

Nonetheless, electric heating and cooking are considered the cleanest kind of heating and cooling because it emits fewer particles than gas and significantly less than burning wood or coal. If you can switch to electric cooking if you have a flare-up of symptoms from breathing in gas, wood, or coal particles.

7. Paint

Paint is also one of the sources of indoor air pollution. If you live in an older home, even if you haven’t painted in years, you may have lead paint on your walls, which was banned in the late 1970s. Even decades after a room has been painted, lead may be a strong neurotoxin as paint chips, peels, and flakes off surfaces.

Many of these pieces are pulverized into small particles, which are then inhaled as part of the interior dust. If you suspect you have lead paint on your interior or exterior walls, speak with a licensed paint contractor about measures to mitigate your risk.

VOCs are common in new paint, and they can linger in a room for weeks, even months after it has been painted. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, asthma aggravation, exhaustion, and skin allergies are among the symptoms of paint fumes.

8. Furniture

The furniture in our houses is also one of the sources of indoor air pollution. Chemical fire retardants can be found in a wide range of products, including furniture, electronics, appliances, and even infant products. These chemicals were required by TB 117, a 1975 law, but they have since been proven ineffectual in preventing fires and have been related to a slew of health and environmental problems.

In fact, by generating poisonous fumes and soot—the main killers in most fires—these chemicals can make fires more toxic.

Furniture with polyurethane foam, such as couches and upholstered chairs, futons, and carpet padding, typically contain fire retardants. Children’s car seats, changing table pads, portable crib mattresses, nap mats, and nursing pillows all contain them.

The Environmental Working Group discovered that young children have substantially greater levels of both PBDEs and TDCIPP than their mothers because children regularly put their hands, toys, and other objects in their mouths.

Fire retardants leach from items and contaminate household dust, which collects on the floor where children play and can spread into the air.

9. Appliances

Many houses and offices have space heaters, ovens, furnaces, fireplaces, and water heaters that use gas, kerosene, oil, coal, or wood as a source of heat but, they are also one of the sources of indoor air pollution. Because combustion is such a risky process, most appliances are thoroughly tested before being used. If the appliance malfunctions, poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and other chemicals, including dangerous aldehydes, can be released.

10. Pet Dander

You might not think of pet dander when you think of indoor pollutants, yet it’s one of the sources of indoor air pollution owing to the fact that they are an acute irritant for many allergy sufferers, making some interior situations difficult to bear. Hairless breeds can produce symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, and chest tightness since pet dander is made up of small flakes of skin shed by domestic pets.

It’s worth noting that air temperature, humidity, and circulation can mimic the symptoms of indoor air pollution and that just lowering the thermostat can assist.

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution – FAQs 

How can we prevent air pollution?

These are the following actions which we can take to prevent air pollution. They include

  1. Use public transportation, bike, or walk whenever possible.
  2. Try to conserve energy as much as you can.
  3. Keep your automobile, boat, and other engines tuned up.
  4. Check your tires for correct inflation.
  5. Whenever possible, use ecologically friendly paints and cleaning supplies.
  6. Mulch or compost yard trash and leaves.
  7. Instead of burning wood, consider using gas logs.
  8. Make a cleaner commute by carpooling or taking public transit.
  9. Combine errands to save time and money. When possible, walk to your errands.
  10. Keep your car from idling excessively.
  11. When it’s cooler, refuel your car in the evening.
  12. Use power sparingly and set air conditioners to 78 degrees.
  13. Postpone lawn and gardening jobs that require gasoline-powered equipment until later in the day.
  14. Decrease the number of car journeys you make.
  15. Reduce or eliminate the use of fireplaces and wood stoves.
  16. Do not burn leaves, rubbish, or other stuff.
  17. Avoid lawn and garden equipment that runs on gas.

How can Indoor Air Pollution be prevented?

  1. Ensure the windows are open for easy and cross ventilation
  2. Quit smoking if you do.
  3. If you have a pet, ensure you give your pet regular and proper bath
  4. Use exhaust fans in the kitchen to remove fumes.
  5. Always change your air filters regularly for your heating and cooling system.
  6. Reduce to the nearest minimum the use of air fresheners, scented candles, incense, and other odor-masking fragrances.
  7. Ensure you vacuum often.
  8. Minimize the use of carpet, choose hard-surface flooring instead.
  9. Try to keep your home and surfaces neat and dry.
  10. Store solvents, glues, and pesticides away from living areas.

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