Dr Usama Fouad Shaalan MD- PhD MiniEncyclopedia الموسوعه المصغره للدكتور أسامه فؤاد شعلان
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a term referring to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.
IAQ can be affected by microbial contaminants (mold, bacteria), gases (including carbon monoxide, radon, volatile organic compounds), particulates, or any mass or energy stressor that can induce adverse health conditions. Indoor air is becoming an increasingly more concerning health hazard than outdoor air. Using ventilation to dilute contaminants, filtration, and source control are the primary methods for improving indoor air quality in most buildings.
Determination of IAQ involves the collection of air samples, monitoring human exposure to pollutants, collection of samples on building surfaces and computer modelling of air flow inside buildings.
Indoor Air Pollution
Most people spend 90% of their time indoors. Numerous studies have found that indoor levels of air pollution are often 2-100 times greater than outdoor levels (USEPA & USCPSC, 1995).
Common indoor air pollutants include:
- second-hand tobacco smoke;
- airborne mold and mildew;
- pet dander;
- lead-impregnated dust from old paint and some vinyl miniblinds;
- cockroach shedding;
- dust mite particles;
- combustion gases released by stoves, heaters, candles and fireplaces; and
- chemicals released by
- dry cleaned clothes;
- cleaning products;
- room deodorizers;
- office supplies;
- paints and sealers;
- new furniture and pressed wood;
- personal care products; and
Exposure to these pollutants can irritate the lungs and sinuses, cause rashes and may contribute to chronic diseases such as asthma, fatigue, cancer and neurological problems.
Of all indoor air pollutants, tobacco smoke is generally the most hazardous, especially for children. Smoke contains tiny particulates as well as many toxic chemicals, such as acrolein. It is an established carcinogen, and has been linked to bronchitis, ear infections, pneumonia, asthma, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (Blair, 1996).
Things You Can Do To Reduce Indoor Air Pollution
To reduce the levels of indoor air pollution you can:
- never allow smoking indoors;
- use less toxic cleaning products;
- make certain that the indoor space is properly ventilated;
- reduce levels of cockroach and dust mite particles;
- reduce pet dander;
- avoid or minimize use of pesticides indoors;
- use low toxicity paints, sealers and caulks;
- reduce the use of solvent-based dry cleaning and/or air out dry-cleaned clothes thoroughly before bringing into one’s home;
- avoid idling an internal combustion engine, such as a car, lawn mower or fork lift, in an enclosed space or near the entrance to one’s home or workplace; and
- change air filters frequently.
The City of Houston Department of Health and Human Services maintains an excellent website, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Information and Links, with fact sheets and other resources on IAQ. Another great resource is the American Lung Association of Texas list of smoke-free restaurants in the Houston area.
See also Resources: Documents to Download and Links for ways to reduce indoor air pollution at home, work or in schools.
Health problems caused by air pollutants
You would think that air pollution enters our bodies when we breathe them in, and that is indeed true. Most air pollutants gain access to our body as we inhale them. Much to my dismay, I just recently discovered that air pollution can also be ingested by eating contaminated fruits and vegetables, as well as absorbed through the skin.
Once the air pollutant is in our body, it can move on to affect other areas such as the lungs, digestive system, blood, or skin. Depending on which route it takes, it has the potential to become either less harmful or more toxic. Some health problems include; cancer, kidney and/or liver damage, asthma, chronic bronchitis, skin rashes, birth defects, miscarriages, cough and throat irritation, nervous system damage, and developmental problems in children.
Third world countries and pollution
Unfortunately, not much regulating is being done in third world countries when it comes to monitoring the air pollution produced by factories or garbage disposal. Many first world countries are taking advantage of this situation by building factories and dumping their hazardous waste in these countries. Normally, if these types of factories were to be set up in their home countries, they would not stand up to the rigid testing that is usually necessary to determine whether or not they are environmentally friendly. As a result of this, on top of the hardships that these people normally face like starvation and a never-ending quest to find clean drinking water, they are now hit with increased air pollution.
The air pollution in one particular country is not contained, spreading to neighboring countries and even farther depending on weather conditions. So the smog from a first world country sometimes ventures into a third world country and vice versa