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Harmful Diseases Caused by Indoor Air Pollution

The harmful health effects of air pollution is a public health worry worldwide. While a lot of focus is given to the impact of air pollution on the environment and natural resources. The seriousness of the impact can be validated by the ailments caused by indoor/household pollution or outdoor pollution (industrial/transportation/construction). Some of the most common diseases in the world are caused by air pollution. The household/indoor air is five times more polluted than outdoor air. Close to half of deaths due to pneumonia among children under 5 years of age are caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution. WHO record shows that 1 out of 8 deaths are associated with air pollution. Each year, close to 3.8 mn people die prematurely from diseases caused due to household air pollution from inefficient cooking. This is more common in low- and middle-income countries. Among these 3.8 million deaths - 27% are due to pneumonia, 18% from stroke, 27% from ischaemic heart disease, 20% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 8% from lung cancer. It has been suggested that a person staying in a metropolitan city has three years lesser life span than a person staying in a rural area.

The latest research suggests stronger links between air pollution and Cardiovascular & Respiratory/Pulmonary diseases, pneumonia. To list a few of the diseases caused by air pollution, these are – heart stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute lower respiratory infections. Recent research indicates that air pollution accelerates the blockage of arteries, leading to increased incidences of heart diseases. Strokes are generally triggered when blood supply to the brain is stopped – this happens because particulate pollutants block the arteries. Lung cancer is associated with air pollutants, especially particulate matter pollution, and secondhand smoke. Childhood pneumonia is caused primarily by household air pollutants. Pneumonia causes inflammation of the air sacs. These air sacs generally fill up with pus or fluid leading to cough, fever, chills and breathing difficulty

Women exposed to high levels of indoor smoke are twice as likely to suffer from the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than women who use cleaner fuels and technologies. Lung cancer is attributed to carcinogens from household air pollution which is caused by burning solid fuels like wood, charcoal or coal. Inhaling particulate matter impairs the immune system and reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Air pollution has been linked to causing low birth weight, tuberculosis, cataract, nasopharyngeal and laryngeal cancers. Cooking gases and electronic equipment, Combustion, building material, and bioaerosols, are the major contributors to household pollution.

Pollutants like dust, mites, moulds, and infectious pollutants produced in stagnant water, mattresses, carpets, and humidifiers pollute indoor air. Some signs of indoor impure airborne issues are - noticeable foul odours, stale or stuffy air, Dirty or broken air conditioning, Damaged chimneys or exhausts, too high humidity, Molds and mildew, health reaction after re-modelling, buying new furniture, or Feeling healthier outside the home.

“Criteria Air Pollutants” is the category of air pollutants that are categorized by EPA as disease-causing. Fuel gathering in low-income groups or remote rural groups increases the risk of musculoskeletal damage. The most affected groups are women and younger children, as they spend maximum time at home and older adults, and people with long-term (chronic) illnesses. Black carbon (sooty particles) and methane which is emitted by inefficient stove combustion are health hazards and safety risks. The lack of access to electricity for 1 billion people (many of whom use kerosene lamps as alternatives) exposes households to very high levels of fine particulate matter. Use of solid Fuels like cow-dung, wood and coal, while cooking in inefficient stoves or open hearths results in the emission of health hazards pollutants like particulate matter (PM), methane, carbon monoxide, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Particulate matter with a diameter of PM2.5 or smaller has the capacity of reaching into the small airways of the body and deposit on the alveoli – the tiny sacs. This is where the respiration process happens i.e. exchange of gases - oxygen exchanges with carbon dioxide in the blood. Ultrafine particles which are 1 micron or less in diameter can penetrate into tissues and organs, posing serious health concerns. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are released by the burning of fossil fuels, or through industrial processes. These harmful gases have the capacity of causing cardiovascular illness. Nitrogen dioxide is also one pollutant that causes asthma. The ill-health effects of formaldehyde can be from being an acute irritant, causing bronchitis. It is also categorized as a carcinogen that causes leukaemia and lung cancer. Biomass smoke leads to the development of cataract. These air pollutants have been singled out by the EPA as needing special attention to keep their levels within acceptable limits.

Keywords: Air pollution, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, air pollutants, a carcinogen, harmful health effects, Air Purifier, benefits of HEPA air purifier, benefits of installing HEPA air purifier, diseases caused by air pollution, HEPA Air Purifier


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