Indoor story: Indoor pollutants more harmful than those in an outdoor environment



By Saliha Nasline

Pollution is not limited to the outside air. We can harm ourselves even inside our comfortable homes and offices.

Most people spend 85% of their lives indoors – inside homes or offices, commercial or industrial buildings, or schools and colleges. With the increasing incidence of respiratory diseases in the country, health experts warn of the risks of indoor air pollution, as several studies show that indoor pollutants are much higher than those in an urban environment. outside.

“Indoor air pollution is as bad as outdoor air pollution,” said Dr Sandeep HS, consultant pulmonologist at BGS Gleneagles Global Hospitals, Bengaluru. “The level of indoor air pollution is very high in our country, both in rural and urban areas, mainly due to overcrowding, poor ventilation, poor housing design and use of biofuel for cooking and smoking indoors.

Other common sources of indoor air pollution include cooking with firewood, fire water heaters, smoking indoors, humidifiers with standing water, poorly maintained air conditioning systems, and air conditioning systems. incense sticks, he said.

According to Dr Vivek Nangia, Director of Respiratory Medicine, Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital, New Delhi, “Air pollution is an invisible killer. In some homes, indoor air pollution was found to be 10 to 30 times greater than outdoor pollution, Nangia said.


Indoor air pollution is a major health problem, especially for people with asthma and allergies. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the common sources of indoor air pollution. Cigarette smoke is one of the main causes, Nangia said. “Two-thirds of the smoke from a cigarette is not inhaled by the smoker, but enters the air around the smoker. This leads to passive smoking by innocent passers-by.

Nangia also explained that burning incense sticks, odor-producing substances like air fresheners, aromatic oils, candles and insecticides can produce volatile organic compounds like nitrogen dioxide. The average levels of organic compounds in indoor air are 2 to 5 times higher than those in outdoor air. During some activities, such as painting, and for several hours immediately after, this can be 1,000 times higher than outdoor levels. Even perfumes and deodorants can contribute to indoor pollution.

The use of mosquito repellent coils, glues and resins, household cleaners, synthetic building materials, toxic paints, thick carpets, curtains and upholstery that trap dust and mites, as well as fumes and smoke from cooking in poorly ventilated households using biomass as cooking fuel could increase the level of pollutants in the air to 100 times what is considered dangerous, he said.

The dusting and broom will dislodge all dust from the floor into the air, which will then be inhaled by unsuspecting individuals, he added.


“With increasing urbanization, many homes in the country lack adequate ventilation. In fact, although we have provided for good ventilation, people generally keep doors and windows closed to prevent the entry of insects and exterior dust. As a result, these pollutants continue to build up and build up inside homes. Since housewives and children spend more time indoors, they are certainly more prone to it. Even working men or women, who can spend their days outside their homes, are exposed to this polluted air for at least 10 to 12 hours every day, ”Nangia said.

In addition, children have narrower airways than adults. So irritation from air pollution that would produce only a mild response in an adult can lead to potentially significant airway obstruction in a young child, he said.


According to a study, in India, the estimated burden of respiratory diseases due to indoor air pollution is 1.6 to 2 billion sick days per year.

Common illnesses that result from indoor pollution are dryness or irritation of the eyes, nose, airways and throat, dizziness, fatigue, headache, irritability, lethargy, and nausea. , allergies, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonia and legionnaire’s disease, lung cancer, chronic obstruction lung disease, pneumonia, tuberculosis and disease syndrome. Volatile compounds can damage the liver, kidneys, blood system, and central nervous system, Nangia said.

Additionally, exposure to poor air quality can lead to initial symptoms such as coughing, eye irritation, asthma or wheezing, and fatigue. But prolonged exposure can have serious consequences on our health, such as stroke, ischemic heart disease, COPD and even lung cancer, said Vinay Pathak, subject matter expert, 3M Asia Pacific Region.

Dr Vivek Nangia, Director of Respirology, Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital, New Delhi.

Inside the story

Control humidity at home or in the office

Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens

Thoroughly clean household appliances

Controlling dust

Keep carpets clean and dry. Wash pillows, blankets and bedding regularly at 60 degrees C

Prefer wooden, tiled or linoleum floors rather than laid textile carpets

Preferred vacuum cleaner or wet mop

Open your open windows when cleaning, painting and installing a new carpet

Never burn charcoal indoors

Never keep heaters on in closed rooms

Avoid dusty textiles and furniture

Avoid strong perfumes, aftershaves, deodorants, and scented flowers inside the house

Avoid furry animals and birds

Completely ban smoking inside the house


Indoor air pollution can be combated by adopting proper cross-ventilation techniques, avoiding inadvertent indoor smoking, and reducing the use of firewood for various household purposes. Regularly dusting bed linens, curtains, lint, and avoiding wet walls will control fungal mold growth. Regular cleaning and maintenance of air conditioning units will reduce most sources of indoor air pollution, Sandeep explained.

Dr Jackin Moses, pulmonology consultant at Frontier Lifeline Hospital in Chennai, said raising public awareness is key to tackling indoor pollution. It is important to make certain changes in the pattern of household fuel use, modification of the design of cooking stoves and improvement of ventilation.

“Avoid polluted areas and protect yourself with masks and protective gear. Make sure our workspace is well ventilated and clean, reduce emissions from your vehicles and live away from sources of pollution such as factories; these precautions are sufficient. Keep your respiratory health in good shape with regular exercise, yoga and a high protein diet, ”said Moses.


Pathak said, “Festival seasons like Diwali see a sharp increase in air pollution levels. During Diwali, the level of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide as well as particles smaller than 10ì meters (PM2.5 – particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers – and PM10) increase almost seven to eight times more than the standard level. The levels of these particles, especially PM2.5, have serious health consequences, as they tend to lodge in the lungs and can even enter the bloodstream. ”

Apart from this, the location of your home and certain indoor activities can decide the level of indoor air pollution. If your home has construction activities nearby, is close to a running road, or if you have pets, it’s very likely that you have high concentrations of particles – PM2.5 and PM10, Pathak said.


It is known that indoor and outdoor air pollutants also cause and exacerbate bronchial asthma. “Repeated exposure to triggers can lead to poor asthma control despite appropriate medication. Asthmatics are advised to use masks wherever necessary and to keep the indoor environment clean and tidy. The fight against dust mites is one of the key factors in the overall management of bronchial asthma. Parasite control and avoidance of pets can help better control asthma, ”said Sandeep.

Regular exercise, a good diet, and avoiding smoking are essential for improving the overall health of an individual, he added.



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