INDOOR POLLUTION : THE INVISIBLE MENACE

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Written By :- Chowdhary Rabiya Shafiq

Think Pollution and we think of smoking emanating from factories and automobiles. We scream ourselves hoarse about how advances in technology have ruined the environment and our health too. But do you know that our homes offer no better situation.
A lot of people who suffer from sneezing, asthma, bronchitis, coughing or persistent eye irritation would be surprised to know that the source of their irritation is lurking in their own homes. Therefore, it’s necessary to check out the hidden sources of pollution and try to control them.
Our houses are no safe havens from the environment pollution angle. They may be highly polluting and harmful places particularly for infants and young children. In fact, indoor pollution is emerging as a significant environmental problem all over the world. There are different causes of indoor pollution, depending upon then economic status of a household. It is a well known fact that over-crowding of houses in urban slums rural areas has facilitated the spread of bronchitis and tuberculosis.

There are some 17 million cases of tuberculosis in India with nearly half a million deaths every year.

In homes of economically poorer section of society, the hazards of pollution are more pronounced. Such houses are conspicuous by their unhealthy and unhygienic living conditions damp floors, lack of adequate ventilation and overcrowding. Women are exposed to serious smoke hazards due to the lack of proper exhaust system in the kitchen. The problem is more acute in houses using wood, coal, and other such fuels for cooking. Lack of ventilation in bathrooms and toilets makes them vehicles for transmission of air borne contamination. All these lead to poor air quality in homes.

Photo for Representation

In India, government standards lay down that window in kitchen should span at least 20% of the floor area, while it should be 10% of the floor area of the living rooms. The recommendation was made by the environmental hygiene committee of the Government way back in the 1950’s but even government housing projects do not follow these standards.
The main source of domestic pollution is the kitchen. The intensity of pollution depends on the type of cooking fuel that is used.
The use of poor quality coal in cooking ovens may create a serious sulfur dioxide hazard in kitchens. Introduction of bio-gas ovens may improve the situation to some extent. Similarly in homes using wood for cooking purposes, the use of improved smokeless “Chulhas” can minimize indoor pollution in the kitchen.

The problem of poor air quality exists even in affluent, air conditioned homes. In fact, air conditioning systems are major source of contamination. Contaminated air with fungal spores or particulate contaminated with bacteria, fungi or viruses present on floors and other surfaces in the home. Particulates are shores readily dispersed into air can cause allergic or mycotoxic responses if inhaled.
Fungal spores such as aspergillus released into air following repairs of old ceilings and wall papers can pose a risk to certain immuno-compromised individuals. Fungal growth is also associated with production of malodors, mycotoxens and volatile organic compounds that affected the air quality. Some of these cause the “sick building syndrome”. The air inside large, centrally air conditioned offices is often highly polluted because of these factors. It is for this reason that modern, architecturally designed offices provide for green spaces and small terrace gardens. Many homes use humidifiers to improve the quality of indoor air. But they can also act a reservoir of contamination, if not decontaminated frequently. Experts say that air quality should be maintained by good ventilation throughout the home combined with regular cleaning of surfaces to prevent the buildup particulate and fungal spores. Research in the U.S found that presence of the pets in the home was associated with higher endotox in levels in the house adjust. Similarly, it has been seen that moulds can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory diseases, while allergens from house dust also implicated in certain respiratory diseases.

Yet another toxic source of indoor air pollution is tobacco smoke. With increasing restriction on smoking at public places, smokers often prefer to smoke in the closed environs of their homes. This exposes non-smoking members of the household, particularly children to tobacco smoke. The adverse impact of passive smoking on n on-smoking is now well established. Considering the levels of pollution inside our homes we need to check out the sources of contamination and try to effectively manage them.

AIR FRESHEN YOUR ROOMS: Solid deodorizing agents release Para peridi-chloro benzene, a chemical that is suspected to cause cancer, into the air as they melt. Experts say that the best way to freshen your rooms is to keep them well ventilated. Allow fresh air to move freely in and out of the house. There are rooms which have windows, all ranged on one side of them. There is no cross ventilation. As a result, the air that comes in gets trapped and the same stale air circulates in the rooms. If this is your case, install an exhaust fan. This will reduce the staleness in the air.

TRACKING IN DUST: After your morning walk or after return from daily work, you could be tracking in powerful pesticides,harmful particulates or lead hidden in the soil outdoors. They mix with the dust in your carpets. So when you walk over it, you are stirring up some nasty stuff. Vacuum cleaners only pick up about 10% of the dirty in your carpet. Changing into slippers or going bare foot will cut down on the dirty stuff you are bringing in on your soles.

AIR OUT DRY CLEANED CLOTHES: The chemical, which is used to dry clean our clothes, tetra chloro ethylene has been known to cause cancer in animals and could as well adversely affect humans too. Airing out of these clothes before storage to cut pollution levels is advised.

CLEAN BATHROOMS: Everyone likes a clean bathroom but be careful while using toilet cleaners. The chemical phenol that is released in bathrooms is known to cause shortness of breath and sneezing.

CHECKING OUT GAS APPLIANCES: Gas furnaces, water heaters, dryers and cooking ranges can emit a certain amount of nitrogen dioxide into the air. But installing and using vents is enough to dramatically drop the level of nitrogen dioxide in your homes.
WASH BEFORE WEAR: Formaldehyde- a highly toxic chemical is commonly used as sizing agent to help keep new clothes crisp and glazed. Washing your clothes when they are new will reduce the amount of formaldehyde that you come in contact with.

VENT OUT :AGARBATI” FUMES: The incense sticks which you light at your prayers could irritate the respiratory system, particularly of the asthmatics. So when you light them, don’t overdo. It, and also make sure that the room is well ventilated to allow the fumes to go out of the window.

BEATING THE MOSQUITO MENACE: Mosquito repellents emit smoke and along with it they also release a chemical whose essential components are not known. What is known; however that is the emission can lead to bronchial problems and pharyngitis. So if you must use them, limit their use and keep them far away from your bed. The best way, through of copying with the mosquito menace is to use meshes on windows or use bed nets.
To conclude, a home free from indoor pollution is not only healthy for its inmates but also keeps them away from serious ailments and infections.

Author is a first female Journalist, Social Activist and Entrepreneur from Peer Panjal Region, she is running Taja Coaching in Rajouri, She is a founder of member of Valley Online, and she is also working with Video Volunteers as Community Correspondent and is an Anchor at Alternate Kashmir and working with some NGO as District Volunteer Head at AAKAAR INDIA and Vice President at JKSWA and many other organizations. She continuously reports from far flung areas of J&K. In 2017, Video Volunteers awarded her with Best Mobile Journalism (MoJo) Award for her Reports. She has done Tremendous and Commendable Job for her society since 2012”. She can be emailed at rabiyashafiq95@gmail.com

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