Studies according to EPA reveal that indoor air has the potential of being more exceedingly polluted that the outdoor air. These indications are especially because the majority of people spend most of their time indoors be it at work, home, or in schools among other indoor areas.
Per se, the effects and health risks can be even more serious compared to outdoor air pollution. The effects from exposures and inhalation of contaminated air or harmful particulate matter can result in devastating health consequences for human and animal health. Some of the health effects are immediate while some are long-term. In this sense, there are a number of effects of indoor air pollution depending on the nature of the pollutant.
Here are some of the common effects of indoor air pollution.
- Pulmonary and respiratory diseases
Indoor air pollution is highly linked to the occurrences of pulmonary and respiratory diseases. The commonly reported health effect of indoor air pollution is acute respiratory infections (ARIs) in children and the elderly. ARIs are responsible for millions of death annually on a global scale, especially for children below the ages of five.
In rural regions, women and children are often exposed to elevated levels of carbon monoxide and smoke particles from burning charcoal, coal, and wood that causes respiratory and pulmonary problems. Gas stoves and heating equipment have similar health effects.
- Health effects of bacteria and molds
Indoor air that is contaminated and intoxicated with viruses, bacteria, and mold act as human pathogens. Their possible effects on human health include sensitivity, irritation and allergies because of the toxicity emitted by the mold’s mycotoxins and volatile organic chemicals as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Severe illnesses have also been reported as a result of air contamination with toxic black mold.
- Cancers, reproductive and immune system impairments
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) present in the indoor polluted air are chief contributors to lethal health outcomes even in small amounts. They are released from tobacco smoke, cooking utilities and textile products. They take longer in the indoor environments due to their extensive half-life. Exposure to POPs is known as a significant risk factor for human health causing immune system impairments, cancers, damage to the nervous system, and reproductive impairments.
- Physiological effects, common symptoms, infectious diseases, and disruption at work
There is a firm proof suggesting the association between indoor air pollution with spread of infectious diseases such as smallpox, measles, influenza, tuberculosis, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Physiological effects and common symptoms such as stress, headaches, nausea, coughing, eye and nose irritation, inflammations of the eyes, fever, nose and throat, sneezing, fatigue, dizziness, and respiratory congestions can all occur because of indoor air pollution. When this happens at workplaces, productive work can be highly disrupted.
- Retarded growth and infant mortality
Children brought up in homes that use indoor charcoal, coal, or wood for heating or cooking exhibit skeleton growth impairment. Similarly, indoor cigarette smoking is associated with chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema which can lead to delayed development in children and slowed organ development among teens. Exposure indoor pollutants also cause premature births and low birth weights (LBW) which slow growth and increases mortality during infancy.
- Opacity of the lens of the eyes
Exposure to indoor air pollutants results in entry and absorption of particulate matter by the lens of the eyes leading to the opacity of the eye lens. This is normally witnessed in developing countries where coal, charcoal, and wood is used for cooking and heating, and it’s most common in women.
- Other effects based on the specific indoor material pollutants
Asbestos can cause adverse health problems such asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other cancers. House dirt mites and animal dander are a common cause of asthma symptoms, allergic reactions and irritations of the nose, throat and eyes. Carbon monoxide from gas stoves is causative agents for headaches, angina, concentration disruption, nausea and even death at high concentration.
Formaldehyde can result in allergies, irritation of the throat, eyes, and nose, and increased chances of developing cancer. Second-hand tobacco smoke causes adverse asthma symptoms, bronchitis, heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer. Phthalates exposure causes reproductive and hormonal disorders.
Some paints, adhesives and home cleaning products contain toxic materials, chemicals and particulate matter which can damage the brain, liver, kidney, and the nerves, and also the lead to some types of cancer. Radon is associated with many premature deaths and risks of developing lung cancer.