Indoor Air Pollutants and their effects

The author of this blog is Rueben, a trained and certified home inspector working at HomeInspeKtor. You can get in touch with him here.

In the last few years, studies have shown that the air inside homes can be more severely polluted than the outdoor air when it comes to even the most industrialized cities. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic, research indicates that people spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health from exposure to indoor air pollution may be more prominent than risks from outdoor pollution.

Certain groups like the elderly, the young, and especially those suffering from cardiovascular or respiratory diseases are often the most susceptible to the effects of getting exposed to indoor air pollutants.

Types of Indoor air pollutants;

Various modes of indoor air pollution are possible in a normal household. High temperature and higher humidity levels are some of the causes of the increase in indoor air pollutants especially when sufficient outdoor air is not brought in to dilute indoor pollutant levels and carry them out of the home.

Indoor pollutants can be further categorized into biological and chemical.

Pollen under an electron microscope
Dust Mite
  • Biological pollutants: Pollutants like bacteria, viruses, molds, animal dander, dust mites, cockroaches, and pollen are biological in nature and can cause some serious health effects. Pollen, the most common biological allergen originating from plants can evoke symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, digestive problems, and fever.
  • Chemical pollutants:  Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are organic chemicals in nature are numerous and varied, They include both human-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. Chemical pollutants can include tobacco smoke, emissions from products used in the building (e.g., office equipment; furniture, wall and floor coverings e.g. formaldehyde; and cleaning and consumer products) accidental spill of chemicals, and gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are products of combustion.

Effects of indoor air pollutants on health;

Although pollen allergies can be disturbing, asthmatic responses to pollutants can cause recurrent experiences of coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and breathlessness which can at times be even life-threatening.

Asthma is more normal in youngsters than in grown-ups, with almost 1 of each 13 young kids having asthma.  Allergens and irritants from the indoor climate may assume a critical function in setting off asthma. Various indoor asthma triggers are biological pollutants. These can include rodents, cockroaches, mites, and mold. 

Cockroach debris, for example, body parts and old shells, trigger asthma in people who are sensitive to cockroach allergen. Special attention to cleaning must be a priority after removing the presence of cockroaches to dispose of the presence of any allergens left that can be asthma triggers.

Another group of arthropods connected to asthma is dust mites. Further examination connected various parasite species to the allergen reaction and revealed that humid homes have more mites and, hence, more allergens. House dust mites flourish in homes that have a source of food, shelter, and satisfactory humidity. Mites incline toward humidity levels of 70% to 80% and temperatures of 24°C to 27°C. Most mites are found in bedrooms in bedding. Normally used bedding may have from 100,000 to 10 million mites in it. Moreover, carpeted floors give a microhabitat to the accumulation of food and moisture for the bug.

How to reduce indoor pollutants;

Here are some ways you can reduce the sources of allergens and irritants throughout your home:

  • Establish regular cleaning routines.
  • Measure your home’s humidity levels and keep below 50%. 
  • Keep windows closed during peak pollen times or during times of high outdoor pollution.
  • Install extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms so as to remove contaminants from these areas
  • Dispose of waste properly and in a timely manner
  • Using products like benzyl benzoate and tannic acid to treat house dust mites and their allergens. 
  • Adjust stoves and boilers to reduce the level of emissions

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