Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year. WHO data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Household air pollution is one of the leading causes of disease and premature death in the developing world.
What Then Is Indoor Air Pollution?
Indoor Air pollution also known as household air pollution occurs when the indoor environment has been contaminated by the release of harmful or excessive substances into the air, thereby making the air quality unsafe for human’s use.
This type of pollution is of particular concern in developing nations like Nigeria, where women and their young children, who typically stay close to their mothers while they are cooking, bear the brunt of the health problems caused by indoor pollution. Though air pollution occurs both indoors and outdoors, Nigerians often pay attention only to outdoor air pollution, underestimating the severity of the impact of indoor air pollution says Brandspurng
What Are The Common Causes of Indoor Air Pollution?
The home is the first indoor environment a child will know. It should be a safe and healthy place.
There are numerous situations in homes which may result in possible exposure to contaminants, such as second-hand smoke, spraying of insecticides, accumulation of pollutants in carpets, poor quality air and others, but the following are the common causes of indoor air pollution;
Fire-Fueling Products: Around the world, more than three billion people, nearly half the world’s population, cook their food using kerosene or solid fuels like firewood and charcoal on open fires or traditional stoves. This produces a lot of smoke, creating indoor air pollution, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), kills millions of people annually says Bradspurgn. Other fire fueling products are:
- Mosquito coils, Candles, Incense may represent a serious and potential threat to children’s health. Prolonged use has been associated with increased incidences of asthma and persistent wheezing in children.
- Gas stoves, and other appliances: Carbon monoxide (C0) is produced by devices that burn fuels. Therefore, any fuel-burning appliance in your home is a potential e.g. electrical heaters, electric water heaters, toasters, generators etc. Due to the epileptic state of electricity in Nigeria, a lot of people result to use of generators to generate electricity for their use. However, making use of generators in an enclosed and poorly ventilated space may predispose both you and your baby to more health issues.
- Second-Hand Smoke: smoke released from cigarettes or cigars when inhaled predisposes your child to the risk of lung cancer and other types of non-communicable diseases. Airborne particulate 2-3 times higher in homes of smokers. Exposure may occur at home, school, in child care settings, home of relative and other places.
- Insecticides/Pesticides: Spraying insecticides of higher concentration may settle on surfaces such as the floor, clothing, and even on your children’s toys. Toddler behaviour such as crawling, Playing close to the floor, playing with toys, putting hands or even objects in their mouth may predispose them to higher
- Organic Chemicals: Organic chemicals are widely used ingredients in household products such as perfumes, deodorants, cleaning products, paints, glues, hair sprays, pen and marker, disinfectants, air freshener, paints e.t.c. All of these products can release organic compounds when used and to some degree when they are stored. US EPA
- Biological Pollutants: Theseare pollutants resulting from living organisms such as animal dander. Animal dander here means materials shed from the body of animals that have hairs, furs or feathers. They include dust mites, moulds. They occur as a result of damaged surfaces, stagnant water, water vapour from cooking and showering, dirt and household materials such as furniture and mattresses may also collect dust overtime if not frequently cleaned
- Radons: is a radioactive gas that comes from the soil. Radon is naturally produced from the breakdown of thorium and uranium found in most soils and rocks. This breakdown causes emission of atomic particles; which are present in the air we breathe and can be deposited in the lungs. Radon does not usually present a health risk outdoors because it is diluted in the open air, However, it can build up to a dangerous level inside a house predisposing one to the risk of lung cancer. US EPA
What are The Effects of Indoor Air pollution?
Usually, indoor air quality problems only cause discomfort. Most people feel better as soon as they remove the source of the pollution. However, some pollutants can cause diseases that show up much later, such as respiratory diseases or cancer. Here are the effects indoor air pollutions may have on you and your toddler;
- Irritation of the mucous membranes such as eyes, nose, throat
- Acute poisoning
- Allergies such as skin rash
- Developmental disturbances
- Loss of coordination
- Cough or Wheezing
- Chest Tightness
- Increased incidence of acute respiratory illness such as cold, pneumonia, otitis media
- Increases the risk of asthma
- Prenatal complications and low birth weight
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDs)
- Memory impairment and damage to liver, kidneys and central nervous system may also occur
Why Are Children More At Risk When Exposed to Indoor Air Pollutions?
Children spend most of their time indoors, which means that their primary exposure to air pollution may come from the air inside homes and schools rather than outdoors. Children may also be exposed where they play or at workplaces. The quality of children’s environment can cause or prevent illness, disability and injury” WHO
Irritation that would not affect adults may result in severe damage to children’s lungs mainly because;
- They are more vulnerable, their immune system is still developing
- Their lungs are still growing and still maturing
- They breathe more air than older children or adults
- They are likely to spend more time indoors
How Can I Protect My Child From Indoor Air Pollution?
More than 50% of premature deaths due to pneumonia among children under 5 are caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution. Here are ways you can protect your child from household air pollution;
- Eliminate or control the source of pollution
- Never use firewood or charcoal indoors
- Allow adequate ventilation
- Reduce your child’s exposure to secondhand smoke
- Reduce your child’s exposure to organic products such as perfume, deodorant, hair spray e.t.c
- Maintain proper hygiene by cleaning your environment regularly, never allow dusts settles on surfaces in your home
- Reduce or eliminate the use of air freshener
- Reduce the use of mosquito coils, candles, and incense
- Keep all fuel-burning appliances such as stoves, electrical heater, e.t.c in good working condition, doing this will reduce the emission of carbon monoxide
- Ensure your house is properly ventilated to prevent smoke and vapour from accumulating indoor
- After using insecticides, ensure you clean all surfaces that the insecticide particles might rest on
- Never allow animals indoors since they are the cause a lot of biological pollution which is harmful to your toddler
- Avoid overcrowding homes and insufficient living space