Indoor Air Pollution - facts for you
While skies clear, indoor air pollution rises in locked down India according to Bhaskaer Tripathi in Business standard. (July 12,2020)
In November 2019, the air in Delhi, India's capital, was so noxious that authorities declared a public health emergency and ordered the closure of schools in the city and surrounding suburbs for several days. Delhi's toxic air, choked with smoke, partly from farm fires in neighbouring states, industrial and vehicular pollution, and road dust, is familiar to all those who live in the city. The toxicity shoots up every winter due to several factors, including lower wind speeds, festival fireworks and crop residue burning by farmers in neighbouring states. Lancet Planetary Health 2019.
While the battle to curb ambient air pollution has been in the news for a long time, the less-researched hidden air pollution in homes, offices and other indoor environments is no less dangerous for health. Not only are ambient air pollution and indoor air pollution inextricably linked, globally, people spend 90% of their time indoors.
According to the State Of Global Air Report 2019, published earlier this year by the Boston-based Health Effects Institute, an independent global health and air pollution research organization, an estimated 846 million people in India were exposed to household air pollution in 2017. That’s 60% of the country’s population. Indoor air pollution: the invisible adversary. 06 Sep 2019, Nitin Sreedhar
Consider our dwellings – home, office, workspaces all filled with furniture, wall paint, mattresses, pillows , chairs, tables, cushions, air conditioners, cooking stoves – the list is unending which we acquire during our lifetime of “corporeal living” without grasping the short and long term damage it is doing to us and the nextgen. Slow emitting pollutants are making our indoors far worse than the outdoor pollution we are trying to escape from - perhaps as severe as the Bhopal gas leak or the Holocaust of Second World War. Read on….
In a typical indoor environment, primary sources would include “the building itself (e.g. wood, linoleum, plastics), consumer products (e.g. personal care products, cleaning or cooking products, equipment and office products, off-gassing from items brought into the home), microbial and human metabolic emissions, occupant activities (e.g. cooking)", and entry of outdoor air into the house, through openings, ventilation systems or leaks.
Lets start with the kitchen – Our cooking our gas ranges could be having incomplete oxidation and acculumating unvented poisonous Carbon monoxide or back-drafting . Average level in homes of NO2 or NO without combustion appliances is about half that of outdoors. In homes with gas stoves, or un-vented gas space heaters, indoor levels often exceed outdoor levels. United States Environmental Protection Agency
Pesticides According to a recent survey, 75 percent of households have used at least one pesticide product indoors during the past year. Products used most often are insecticides and disinfectants. Another study suggests that 80 percent of most people's exposure to pesticides occurs indoors and that measurable levels of up to a dozen pesticides have been found in the air inside homes.Exposure to inhalable particles can affect both our lungs and our heart. Indoor PM can also be of biological origin. United States Environmental Protection Agency
Lead has long been recognized as a harmful environmental pollutant. Lead is particularly dangerous to our children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often touch objects that have lead into their mouths. Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead, inhaling lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil or from playing with toys with lead paint.
VOC Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.
Paints, varnishes and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored.
Most people consider their bed a safe haven, but new research suggests your body heat might trigger the release of potentially harmful chemicals from your mattress.
Mattresses are known to release minute amounts of gaseous chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOCs come mainly from the polyurethane used in the mattress, but also from other chemicals used in flame retardants and plastics, the researchers said.
Unfortunately, your body heat appears to increase VOC emissions from your mattress, according to tests conducted on eight different types of polyurethane mattresses.
But don't toss out your mattress just yet: The estimated doses of most VOCs remain well below the levels that could cause health effects, researchers have noted. Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter
Babies in particular spend a lot of time in their crib, lying on foam mattresses that produce these gases, said Spaeth, who had no part in the study."By virtue of their age and size, they have heightened vulnerability to potential toxic effects," he said. Andrea M. Spaeth, Department of Kinesiology & Health, Rutgers University,
Microfibers are, as the name implies, synthetic fibers that are far smaller in diameter than “typical fibers.” As an example, they are 100 times finer than a human hair, one-third of the diameter of cotton, one-fourth the diameter of wool, and one-half the diameter of silk.
Microfiber is a textile made from ultrafine synthetic yarns, usually polyester and nylon. Polyester is derived from crude oil. It is also the terminal product in a chain of very reactive and toxic precursors. Most are carcinogens; all are poisonous. And even if none of these chemicals remain entrapped in the final polyester structure (which they most likely do), the manufacturing process requires workers and our environment to be exposed to some or all of the chemicals. There is no doubt that the manufacture of polyester is an environmental and public health burden that we would be better off without yet we frequently use pillows, quilts, toys, jackets, cushions and others which when disposed lands up in our water or air and fill our lungs or body.
We all want our home to be as safe and as clean as can be – we scrub the bath, wipe the benches, wash our sheets. But what about the dirt we can’t see? What if the answer was as simple as choosing or making the right choices when buying.
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