The problem of Air pollution is not a new one for the human race. It started as soon as man learnt to make fire. Then, with the development of engines and furnaces, it went to an altogether new level. The problem of population explosion is adding further to it. In the twentieth century, it was realized that problem of Air pollution is not limited to outdoors but has penetrated to our household air as well (called as Indoor Air Pollution). Initially, indoor air pollution was thought of mainly due to second-hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke (also called as passive smoking) and nitrogen dioxide released from gas cooking stoves. Later it came to be known that there are many other indoor air pollutants such as certain volatile organic compounds, certain biological agents and two carcinogens – radon and asbestos. One newer concern is diseases caused by fungus caused by damage to homes due to flood water.
Sources of Indoor Air pollution
Major sources of indoor air pollution are:
- Combustion (burning of solid fuels for cooking/heating)
- Burning of tobacco (Cigarette and Hookah smoking)
Biomass (cattle dung) fuel is the primary source of domestic fuel in developing nations, frequently burnt in the households in open fire or inefficient stoves. Tobacco smoke is also an important indoor pollutant. According to WHO, there are about 1.1 billion smokers worldwide and of this 80 % live in low- and middle -income countries. Other household activities such as repairs and cleaning also lead to suspension of pollutant particles into the ambient air and hence are contacted by us indoors.
Health hazards caused by Indoor air pollution
A polluted environment is never beautiful. So, the most common “adverse effect” of air pollution is a sense of loss of well-being due to the decreased aesthetic value of the environment. Indoor air pollution can affect us in a variety of ways right from directly causing certain diseases, to sudden worsening of previously diagnosed diseases to increased risk of certain diseases. Following is a table listing some of the major indoor pollutants, their sources and the hazards caused by them:
Methods to Control Indoor Air pollution
Following methods have been suggested and used for control of Indoor Air pollution:
- Use of cleaner fuels such as LPG and electricity instead of wood/coal/cattle dung
- Use of smokeless chulhas and chimneys which prevent aggregation of smoke indoors
- Cigarette smoking cessation
- Use of masks - Doesn’t control air pollution but at least ameliorates its effects
- Proper ventilation techniques
- Newer cleaning and repair techniques which result in the minimal release of particles in the air