Indoor air pollution is the contamination of the indoor air caused by pollutants and sources like Carbon Monoxide, Particulate Matter, Volatile Organic Compounds, Radon, Mould and Ozone. While outdoor air pollution has captured the attention of millions, the worst air quality that you experience everyday may be coming from your homes.
What is Indoor Air Pollution?
There exists a relatively unknown pollution that lurks around us. While pollution in general is certainly an integral aspect from an environmental and health perspective, such as water or noise, many of us are unaware that indoor air pollution has triggered several health risks in children and adults over the years. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks it as one of the top five environmental dangers.
We spend about 90% of our time indoors and it is a proven fact that indoor emissions also contaminate the air. These indoor emissions can be natural or anthropogenic; they originate from the air we breathe to the indoor circulation and to a certain extent, from furniture articles. These emissions result in indoor air pollution.
Indoor air pollution is the pollution (or contamination) of the indoor air caused by pollutants and sources like Carbon Monoxide, Particulate Matter (PM 2.5), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Radon, Mould and Ozone.
Every year, almost four million premature deaths are recorded around the world due to indoor air pollution and many more suffer from diseases linked to it, such as asthma, heart diseases and cancer. Household air pollution caused by burning of unclean fuels and solid fuel stoves releases dangerous pollutants like Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxides and Particulate Matter. What makes this even more concerning is that the air pollution caused indoors can contribute to almost 500,00 premature deaths attributed to outdoor air pollution annually.
Indoor air pollution is deeply linked to inequality and poverty as well. A healthy environment is recognised as a constitutional right of the people. In spite of this, there are roughly three billion people who use unclean sources of fuels and live in some of the poorest nations in the world such as Africa, Latin American and Asian countries. Furthermore, the existing technologies and fuels used indoors already pose severe risks. Injuries such as burns and ingestion of kerosene are all linked to household energy used for lighting, cooking and other related purposes.
There is also a disproportionality that exists when referring to this hidden pollution. Women and girls are known to be affected the most due to them spending larger time indoors. According to an analysis conducted by the World Health Organisation in 2016, girls in households that depend on unclean fuels lose around 20 hours each week gathering wood or water; this means that they are at a disadvantage, both in comparison to households that have access to clean fuels, as well as to their male counterparts.
So how does indoor air pollution relate to climate change?
Black carbon (also known as soot) and methane – a greenhouse gas that is more potent is carbon dioxide – emitted by inefficient combustion in households are powerful pollutants contributing to climate change. Household cooking and heating appliances account for the highest source of black carbon which basically involve the use of coal briquettes, wooden stoves and traditional cooking appliances. Furthermore, black carbon has a stronger warming impact than carbon dioxide; around 460 -1,500 times stronger than carbon dioxide per unit of mass.
Climate change in turn, can also affect the air we breathe indoors. Rising carbon dioxide levels and increasing temperatures can trigger outdoor allergen concentrations, which can infiltrate indoor spaces. Extreme weather events in recent decades have also downgraded indoor air quality by increasing dampness, which results in an increase in dust, mould and bacteria.
The conundrum of indoor air pollution brings us to “indoor air quality”. Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality in and around buildings and structures, and relates to the health, comfort and well-being of building occupants. In sum, indoor air quality is determined by the pollution indoors. Therefore, to address and improve IAQ, is to tackle indoor air pollution sources.
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Ways to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution
To start with, household pollution is something that can be curbed to a good extent. Since we all cook in our homes, using cleaner fuels like biogas, ethanol and other renewable energy sources can certainly take us a step forward. An added benefit to this, would be the reduction in forest degradation and habitat loss –…