Indoor air pollution
It refers to the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of air in the indoor environment within a home, building, or an institution or commercial facility. Indoor air pollution is a concern in the developed countries, where energy efficiency improvements sometimes make houses relatively airtight, reducing ventilation and raising pollutant levels. Indoor air problems can be subtle and do not always produce easily recognized impacts on health. Different conditions are responsible for indoor air pollution in the rural areas and the urban areas.
In the developing countries, it is the rural areas
that face the greatest threat from indoor pollution, where some 3.5 billion people
continue to rely on traditional fuels such as firewood, charcoal, and cowdung for cooking
and heating. Concentrations of indoor pollutants in households that burn traditional fuels
are alarming. Burning such fuels produces large amount of smoke and other air pollutants
in the confined space of the home, resulting in high exposure. Women and children are the
groups most vulnerable as they spend more time indoors and are exposed to the smoke. In
1992, the World Bank designated indoor air pollution in the developing countries as one of
the four most critical global environmental problems. Daily averages of pollutant level
emitted indoors often exceed current WHO guidelines and acceptable levels. Although many
hundreds of separate chemical agents have been identified in the smoke from biofuels, the
four most serious pollutants are particulates, carbon monoxide, polycyclic organic matter,
and formaldehyde. Unfortunately, little monitoring has been done in rural and poor urban
indoor environments in a manner that is statistically rigorous.
In urban areas, exposure to indoor air pollution has increased due to a variety of reasons, including the construction of more tightly sealed buildings, reduced ventilation, the use of synthetic materials for building and furnishing and the use of chemical products, pesticides, and household care products. Indoor air pollution can begin within the building or be drawn in from outdoors. Other than nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead, there are a number of other pollutants that affect the air quality in an enclosed space.
Tobacco smoke generates a wide range of harmful chemicals and is known to cause cancer. It is well known that passive smoking causes a wide range of problems to the passive smoker (the person who is in the same room with a smoker and is not himself/herself a smoker) ranging from burning eyes, nose, and throat irritation to cancer, bronchitis, severe asthma, and a decrease in lung function.
Biological pollutants include pollen from plants, mite, hair from pets, fungi, parasites, and some bacteria. Most of them are allergens and can cause asthma, hay fever, and other allergic diseases.
Formaldehyde is a gas that comes mainly from carpets, particle boards, and insulation foam. It causes irritation to the eyes and nose and may cause allergies in some people.
Asbestos is mainly a concern because it is suspected to cause cancer.
Radon is a gas that is emitted naturally by the soil. Due to modern houses having poor ventilation, it is confined inside the house causing harm to the dwellers.