Indoor Air Pollution: Causes, Effects, and Prevention

What is Indoor Air Pollution?

Indoor air pollution is caused by burning solid fuel sources such as firewood, crop waste, and dung for cooking and heating. The burning of such fuels, particularly in poor households, results in air pollution that leads to respiratory diseases which can result in premature death.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Understanding and controlling common pollutants indoors can help reduce your risk of indoor health concerns.

Indoor air pollution is defined as, it refers to chemical, biological and physical contamination of indoor air. It may result in adverse health effects.

The WHO calls indoor air pollution “the world’s largest single environmental health risk. This is a very complex global issue because indoor air is more concentrated than outdoor air. This has a more negative effect, as it has to pass on a day-to-day basis.

Most of the common indoor pollutants used are carpet, asbestos sheet, LPG, cleaning detergent, air freshener, cigarette odor hair spray, etc. All these may initially cause mild irritation, asthma, and mild skin allergies, but over time it can lead to fatal health issues such as respiratory diseases and even cancer.

Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor Air Pollution

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

There are many sources of indoor air pollution. These can include:

  • Fuel-burning combustion appliances
  • Tobacco products
  • Building materials
  • Products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies
  • Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
  • Excess moisture
  • Outdoor sources
Sources of indoor Air Polution
  • Radon: The gas emitted during the radioactive decay of radium is known as radon. It is commonly found under buildings, homes, under rock beds, and other rock formations. This gas is easily accessible in buildings and homes polluting indoor air. It can prove to be dangerous for people living and can cause serious health issues.
  • Asbestos: It considered being the leading cause of indoor air pollution. Asbestos commonly uses in buildings, homes, and industries these days. It emits micro-fibers which absorbed by the air indoor. It contaminates the indoor air that we breathe and can cause serious damage due to lung cancer. Most of the asbestos in the country has been banned due to serious health issues.
  • Cigarette smoke: It falls under the category of second-hand smoke which kills the air purifier. Smoke emanating from these cigarettes and even tobacco spread easily throughout the building. Carbon monoxide, volatile and semi-volatile compounds, and minute particles excreted in the indoor air and cause respiratory disorders.
  • Adhesives: Commonly used Glu and adhesives emit VOCs such as ethyl ketone and acetone which cause severe air to air pollution. It affects the normal functioning of the nervous system and can cause severe eye irritation. Cement glue is even more harmful. It contains an element called hexane which is a neurotoxin that releases toxic formaldehyde. It tops the list of indoor air pollution.
  • Cooking and cleaning utilities: Gas stoves, heaters, fireplaces, chimneys produce carbon monoxide that mixes with air in homes and can cause headaches and dizziness. Nitrogen oxide is given by a gas stove which can cause respiratory problems. But unfortunately, all of these used by humans on a daily basis.
  • Cloth carpet: New carpets that we buy and may release some volatile organic material that can easily pollute the indoor environment. If they have not washed or rinsed properly, this can worsen the situation due to accumulated dust and other toxic materials.
  • Paint, Varnish, and Turpentine: After the use of paints, turpentine, and varnish, healthy environments in a building or home are hindered as they emit VOCs i.e. volatile organic compounds and other chemical fumes. All of these contain methylene chloride which is highly polluting and can cause cancer.
  • Household cleaning products: Commonly used cleaning products such as soaps, toilet cleaning agents, laundry soaps, and detergents can all cause indoor air pollution. All these products cause irritation which contaminates the indoor air causing various health problems.
  • Broken bulbs: Little amounts of mercury discharged when a fluorescent bulb breaks. This can cause indoor air pollution. Mercury contains a neurotoxin that can cause serious health issues.

Effects of Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution has been linked to a wide variety of adverse health effects, including headaches, respiratory problems, frequent colds, and sore throats, chronic cough, skin rashes, eye irritation, lethargy, dizziness, and memory lapses. Long-term effects may include an increased risk of cancer.

The effects of indoor air pollutants range from short-term effects of eye and throat irritation to long-term effects of respiratory disease and cancer. Exposure to high levels of some pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, can even result in immediate death. Also, some indoor pollutants can magnify the effects of other indoor pollutants.

Common symptoms of Indoor Air Pollution

Symptoms of poor indoor air quality are very broad and depend on the contaminant. They can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other illnesses such as allergies, stress, colds, and influenza.

The most common symptoms are coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, upper respiratory congestion, etc.

Respiratory Health Effects

Consult the EPA’s Health Effect Symptom Reference Chart to determine the cause of the particular health effect: Rhinitis, nasal congestion (inflammation of the nose, runny nose), Epistaxis (nose bleeds), Dyspnea (difficulty of breathing or painful breathing), Pharyngitis (sore throat), cough, Wheezing, worsening asthma, Severe lung disease, etc.

More Severe Health Effects

Consult the EPA’s Health Effect Symptom Reference Chart to determine the cause of the particular health effect: Conjunctival (eye) irritation, Rashes, Fever, chills, Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat, sometimes leading to shortness of breath), Headache or dizziness, Lethargy, fatigue, malaise, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, Myalgia (muscle pain), Hearing loss, etc.

Prevention of Indoor Air Pollution

Fortunately, there are ways you can minimize air pollution in your home, car or at work, Try these simple steps to Preventing indoor air pollution:

  • Avoid smoking indoors (but quitting smoking is the best answer for overall health).
  • Use craft supplies in well-ventilated areas.
  • Make sure your gas stove is well-ventilated.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Remove carpeting if possible.
  • Use a dehumidifier and/or air conditioner to reduce moisture.
  • Keep trash covered to avoid attracting pests.
  • Remove shoes at the door.
  • Have car emissions tested regularly.
  • Minimize air freshener use.
  • Test your home for radon.
  • Use carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Fix water leaks.
  • Dust surfaces and vacuum frequently.
  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
  • Make sure exhaust fans are functioning in your bathrooms and kitchen
  • Keep a lid on scented candles.

Therefore, taking all these steps into consideration, thus, Indoor air pollution can reduce, producing a healthy population.


What is Indoor air pollution?

Indoor air pollution is the degradation of indoor air quality by harmful chemicals and other materials; it can be up to 10 times worse than outdoor air pollution. Statistics suggest that in developing countries, the health impacts of indoor air pollution far outweigh those of outdoor air pollution.

What are the Sources of indoor air pollution?

There are many sources of indoor air pollution. These can include:
1. Fuel-burning combustion appliances
2. Tobacco products
3. Building materials
4. Products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies
5. Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
6. Excess moisture
7. Outdoor sources

What is the definition of indoor air pollution?

Indoor air pollution refers to chemical, biological and physical contamination of indoor air. It may result in adverse health effects.

How can we prevent indoor pollution?

Follow the checklist below to help minimize indoor air pollution.
1. Open Windows.
2. Ban Smoking.
3. Give Your Pets a Bath.
4. Use Exhaust Fans.
5. Put Down a Doormat.
6. Change Filters.
7. Skip Fires.
8. Don’t Cover Up Odors.

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