Indoor air pollution is killing millions

Air pollution is usually thought of as being outdoors, but the air in your house or any other enclosed space could also be polluted. Indoor air pollution refers to chemical, physical, or biological contaminants in indoor air. This type of air pollution has received negligible attention even though it kills up to 800,000 children each year, mainly from pneumonia.

There are many sources of this pollution like tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide, pesticides and lead. The biggest source of indoor air pollution is burning wood, coal or other cheap fuels in kitchens; it kills about 1.5 million people worldwide each year. This source of pollution is typically overlooked but it is a serious problem in developing countries. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, followed by India and Laos account for the highest percentage of death and disease linked to indoor air pollution in Asia.

Some health effects can be useful indicators of an indoor air quality problem, especially if they appear after a person moves to a new residence, remodels or refurnishes a home, or treats a home with pesticides. Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated exposures. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Other health effects may show up after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer.

To safe guard from indoor air pollution it is important that the residential space is well-ventilated. Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom increases the outdoor ventilation rate. In the longer run we need to move to improved stoves and cleaner fuels.



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