Indoor Air Pollution

What is indoor air pollution?

            Indoor air pollution is when the condition of air surrounding building settings both inside and out is detrimental to the health of living beings. It is especially dangerous in comparison to outdoor air pollution because of how confined the space is within a building as opposed to the space outside.

            Some of the causes of indoor air pollution are a result of the materials used to construct the building, practices followed in and around the building, and natural contaminants. Asbestos can be found in roofing panels and shingles, insulation materials, water supply lines, and cement pipes. Formaldehyde can be found in wood products, press fabrics, glues, paints, pesticides, cosmetics, and detergents. Radon gas can be found within the ground beneath homes and slip in through any cracks or openings in the home. Tobacco smoke can accumulate if smoking is done around or within the home. Biological pollutants such as bacteria, mold and animal dander can enter the home from outside. Appliances such as stoves and heaters can release carbon monoxide and nitrogen monoxide.

            Asbestos is a material that is harmful to health and has been made illegal to use as a building material in many countries. Formaldehyde will gather within a home if there is no proper ventilation. Radon gas can leak into homes if the gas in the ground is not removed or reduced. Tobacco smoke will increase if continued smoking is done inside or around the home. Biological pollutants grow if the environment in the home has damp or humid areas. Appliances that are used without proper ventilation can cause more harmful gases to reside within the home.

What are other household pollutants?

            Charcoal is often used for cooking and heating because of its availability and modest price. Without proper ventilation smoke from charcoal that stays trapped in the homes causes harm to the residents in the building. Organic waste and poor sewage treatment are more biological pollutants that are often improperly left within and around the homes releasing many harmful gases into the air. Along with a lack of practical toilets, the buildup of waste makes the increase of indoor air pollution more potent.  

What does it affect?

            The main complications that arise from indoor air pollution is the effect it has on human health as those areas inside and outside the buildings become a very unsafe environment to live in. Both short term and long-term illnesses can develop due to indoor air pollutants. Eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue are some of the more milder health issues. Long-term illnesses include respiratory diseases such as asthma, allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart conditions such as angina, arrythmia, heart attacks, heart failure and hypertension, and cancer. Pneumonia, stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer can become fatal health risks.

            The ones most affected are usually women and young children who spend more time in and around their homes. Older adults, people with existing heart conditions, and those with breathing/lung problems and illnesses are also at risk.

            Different instruments for cooking, heating, and lighting are powered using kerosene, biomass, coal, and charcoal. To collect some of these materials, it exhausts a lot of time especially for women and children. This takes away time that could be spent to work or attend school. Individuals can become injured from gathering the fuel and can develop musculoskeletal damage. Safety can become a big issue as kerosene can be accidently consumed and often results in childhood poisoning. Severe burns can also occur. A lot of the black carbon and methane released from these instruments can contribute to climate change pollutants.

What are some solutions?

            Eco-friendly stoves are one way to reduce emissions of gases if alternative methods to burning wood or charcoal are applied. Solar power and other natural fuel sources like biomass, volcanic rocks and briquettes can be used. These energy sources are sustainable as they last for a long time and do not emit the harmful gases that contribute to air pollution. Solar panels can be installed and hooked up to the stove to supply energy. Solar energy is a large potential power source as the geographical location increases the amount of sunlight that can be captured. Volcanic rocks can be heated up and then used. These rocks can be reused for up to two years. Briquettes are made from dried pruned branches that are then carbonized and combined with a natural binder. The briquettes produce low carbon emissions.

            Heating is usually done with traditional fireplaces that typically require coal, charcoal, or wood. A more ecofriendly alternative that will not emit those harmful pollutants is an electric fireplace. Smoke which contains carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, two very harmful gases, will no longer be released. These fireplaces are more effective at heating up the home as chimneys and specialized vents aren’t needed. The heat cannot escape from the homes through those spots, which normally occurs in traditional fireplaces. LED bulbs are used which drains less electricity comparatively to standard bulbs and can last up to 50,000 hours. These fireplaces can be positioned in any room in the house and demands little maintenance.

            Proper ventilation and air circulation allow gas buildup to leave the home and biological pollutants to not accumulate. Many household gases can be harmful as appliances that require the burning of materials to run release a lot of gases. Some of the chemicals in the house from the framework and structure of the building also release gases that do not leave the home. With proper ventilation using ducts, pipes and placing items within the home in certain locations, reduces the stockpiling of gases. Interior doors should be left open, and furniture should be kept away from outside walls. Humidity and dampness can also lessen as this limits the creation of a habitat for more biological pollutants to grow.

            Composting organic waste is one way to prevent harmful gases from transpiring in your home. Dry composting toilets take human waste and turns it into compost. This eliminates the need to have a sewage system as proper or lack thereof of such systems has greatly minimized appropriate sanitation methods and organic waste disposable. Other organic waste such as food scraps can also be composted in green bins.   

What will be impacted?

            Shrinking and possibly eliminating indoor air pollution with these potential solutions means that the risks will no longer be present. The health of the residents is severely impacted and if the pollution were to decrease, the improvement in their health will allow them to live much more comfortable and longer lives. They will be able to pursue education and work to further enhance their futures. 

References:

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/introduction-indoor-air-quality#:~:text=Indoor%20pollution%20sources%20that%20release,pollutants%20out%20of%20the%20area.

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-indoor-air-pollution.php

https://www.afro.who.int/news/asbestos-use-continues-africa-despite-severe-health-warnings

https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/formaldehyde/home/index.html

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/charcoal-africa-power-good-bad/

https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality#:~:text=Health%20effects%20associated%20with%20indoor,%2C%20heart%20disease%2C%20and%20cancer.

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/household-air-pollution-and-health

https://www.springwise.com/flatpack-solar-powered-biofuel-stove-africa-save-lives/

https://www.cnn.com/2015/01/30/africa/eco-stove-kampala-sustainable-cooking

https://www.dlapiper.com/en/uk/insights/publications/2019/11/africa-connected-issue-3/the-rise-of-alternative-energy-sources-in-africa/

https://www.africangreenrevolution.com/homes-in-african-are-adopting-energy-efficient-design-elements/

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