Indoor Pollution and Its Impact on Health

How important is indoor pollution in our health? Well, much more than many people think. Right now, that we have become aware of the dangers posed by external pollution and that every day there are more restrictions on the use of the car or fossil fuels, the population has realized the real problem posed by polluting. However, it is not so common that it is known that, in cities, buildings are the main emitters of airborne pollutants.
If what we produce in our homes and workplaces involves the greatest number of pollutants that we throw into the air of our cities, wouldn’t the closed places also be a source of pollution? Definitely. It is very common to ignore the quality of the air we breathe inside the house, but most respiratory problems occur by letting our interiors become contaminated.
Cooking without opening the windows, using chemicals in cleaning without considering if it is being ventilated, the use of aerosols or simply leaving an accumulation of dust are phenomena that can cause us to end up breathing stale air, and that is an important problem for our health.
Some data to consider understanding the danger of indoor pollution are the following:

  • More than 3 billion people worldwide heat their homes and cook indoors with combustion solutions. For example, these are wood stoves or coal stoves, among other solutions.
  • More than four million people die every year prematurely due to diseases that are attributed to indoor pollution and stale air, which appears due to the use of fuels for cooking.
  • The same indoor polluted air is responsible for about 3.8 million premature deaths due to the occurrence of non-contagious diseases, such as strokes, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive neuropathy or lung cancer.
  • Among all children under five who die of pneumonia, more than half do so because they have inhaled contaminated air particles at home.

These serious consequences are usually caused by small particles – which today we call PM2.5 – and by other pollutants that also inflame the airways and lungs. Continued exposure to this smoke cuts our body’s ability to oxygenate the blood, and further weakens our immune system.
Breathing an air of poor quality indoors, coupled with a bad diet, smoking or lack of physical exercise, can lead to pneumonia and other respiratory problems. The World Health Organization itself strongly recommends that in homes around the world the use of fuels for cooking or air conditioning be avoided, but also that energy consumption be halted. In any house, even if no fuel is used, it is possible to generate a mass of stale or high humidity air that ends up affecting the health of people.

How to combat indoor pollution?

The health risks arising from indoor pollution are notable and we have already commented on them. Therefore, it is important to fight them at home to avoid health problems. How can we do it?
The most efficient way is to ventilate the rooms. And, to achieve the best results, it is better to use mechanical ventilation systems. But in those homes where there is no ventilation mechanism available – more than two thirds of the buildings in Spain are over 30 years old – we can also opt for the following:

  • Open the windows. It is considered that to air a room it is not necessary more than ten to 15 minutes, but it is important that the air run as long as possible.
  • Use bathroom extractors in sinks, at least during times when the light is on. They are economical and very easy to install.
  • When cooking, use the extractor hood ten minutes before cooking and another ten after, in addition to during the entire process.
  • Every time we clean the house or cook, it is ideal to open the windows a quarter of an hour before and leave them until at least ten minutes after finishing.
  • We can get a dehumidifier to eliminate excess if we live in coastal areas.
  • The use of fans can also help us, especially if they point to the windows to extract the air.
  • Be attentive to bad smells, they are indicative that something does not work in the air at home.

The best solution will always be the installation of a mechanical ventilation system, among which the dual flow ones stand out. These can extract the air automatically and driving previously renewed and filtered air.