Indoor Air Quality

indoor air

Indoor Air Quality

Humans in modern societies spend more time indoors than outdoors. You breath in the air indoors and it touches your skin. It is not only important for the oxygen to fuel your metabolism. The air indoors can contain over 900 particles, chemicals and biological materials that can effect your health. Even though the concentrations and composition varies widely, the concentrations are usually higher than outdoors. Health effects from pollutants may be felt soon after exposure or possibly years later. Some people can become sensitive to certain pollutants after repeated exposures or high level exposures. Factors like age and preexisting conditions contribute to the reactions to a pollutant or the sensitivity towards it.

According to the World Health Organization, 3.8 million people a year die prematurely from illnesses attributed to indoor air pollution from the use of solid fuels and kerosene for cooking. They say that among these deaths:

  • 27% are due to pneumonia
  • 18% from stroke
  • 27% from ischaemic heart disease
  • 20% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • 8% from lung cancer.

You dwell in a modern home and do your cooking electric? Lucky for you there are other pollutants with possible health effects. According to SCHER, these compounds cause harm or have a high potential to cause harm:

  • carbon monoxide
  • formaldehyde
  • benzene
  • nitrogen oxides
  • naphthalene

Other compounds that SCHER is concerned about:

  • tobacco smoke
  • radon
  • lead
  • organophosphates

Pollutant Sources

There are many sources and some produce more pollution than others. These are possible sources but it is not an exhaustive list:

  • Fuel-burning appliances
  • Tobacco products
  • Building materials and furnishings, eg. flooring, carpet, furniture of certain pressed wood products
  • Cleaning, maintenance, personal care or hobby items
  • Heating, cooling and humidification systems
  • Excess moisture
  • Outdoor sources, eg. radon or pesticides

Short-term Effects

Soon after a single exposure or some repeated exposure to a pollutant, these effects may show up:

  • Irritation to eyes, nose or throat
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Asthma symptoms

Long-term Effects

Effects that show up after prolonged exposure or repeated periods of exposure include:

  • Respiratory diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

Further Reading

Anand, SS; Philip, BK and Mehendale, HM. Volatile Organic Compounds. Elsevier, 2014.

EPA. Introduction to Indoor Air Quality.

Technical Overview of Volatile Organic Compounds.

Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality.

What are volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?

EU SCHER. Indoor Air Quality.

Opinion on risk assessment on indoor air quality. SCHER, 2007.

WHO, WHO guidelines for indoor air quality – selected pollutants. World Health Organization, 2010.

Household air pollution and health.

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