The minute you learn you are going to be parents you take the first step to welcoming the new addition into your life. You get down to preparing the “baby’s room” with cutest wallpapers, crib, toys and whatnot. Even before your little one starts crawling you start baby-proofing the house. Once school starts, you get down to setting up the best possible study corner for your child. But are you overlooking something? Something that can have negative effects on your little one’s health? Indoor air pollution …?
Contrary to popular bee-lief…Face the monster
When talking about protecting our children from pollution, most of us are thinking of outside air. But the one area that gets overlooked is indoor air pollution. Children spend more than 90% of their time indoors – at school and at home. The EPA, US estimates that the level of indoor air pollution can be 2 to 5 times higher than the pollution level outdoors (read more). Yes even in our visibly safe, clean and happy looking homes!
But do not stress. At UrbanMeisters we are always on the watch-out for all avatars of pollution. And indoor air pollution has not managed to give our radar the slip. We’ll help you build a strong and safe force-field around your child. The first step to combating indoor pollution is understanding what is it, how it can affect your little one.
Have their been studies done to see if this indoor air pollution monster is for real?
Scientists and health experts are increasingly concerned about the role environmental toxins play in childhood diseases. Depending on the age of the children, the effects of different indoor air pollution exposure conditions can differ widely. As far as indoor pollution is concerned, we can begin by identifying the 3 different indoor environments where children spend most of their time:
- The home
- Indoor spaces outside-the-home (Day care, Kindergarten, School)
- Environment of recreational activities (swimming pools, etc.).
Read here to understand more.
1. At home
Let’s first have a look at the research available on indoor-pollution at home. This is very important considering the time spent in this environment. While you can read here for more, the key facts are:
The indoor air pollution monster and pneumonia
Indoor pollution in developing countries is disproportionately higher compared to developed countries due to differences in pollution-causing sources. The main difference being the use of solid fuels for cooking & heating purposes used by the majority of the population in developing countries. Indoor air pollution that comes from combustion of solid fuels for cooking and space heating is one of the most important contributors. As a result almost 40x more new episodes of pneumonia, bronchiolities and reactive air are reported from developing countries vs. developed countries. The highest number of new cases come from the South-East Asian Region, India and China.
The indoor air pollution monster and asthma
Asthma is much more common in developed countries, so the most research is done here on the link between indoor air pollution. Asthma is associated with residential dampness and molds as is confirmed by studies conducted in Russia, North America and 10 countries in Eastern and Western Europe.
The indoor air pollution monster and other issues
- A recent analysis of 8 studies found that children were more than 3x likely to have acute respiratory issues when exposed to solid biomass fuel smoke as compared to non-exposed children as published in this research.
- Second hand tobacco-smoke exposure during childhood is associated with increased lung cancer risk among non-smoking adults. You can read here.
- European studies show that chemicals released from other sources (i.e. indoor sources other than cooking fuel and smoking) are associated with respiratory health of children. Redecoration of apartments with paints etc. had a significant influence on the occurrence of bronchitis in the first and in the second year of life among children living in apartments in Germany Source.
2. Out of home
As an example for a study conducted in an out-of-home environment we can look at the extensive research that was undertaken and published by several research centers for the European Commission. The study was conducted in schools where 23 European nations participated and the findings pointed to a clear presence of indoor pollutants:
- The values for PM2.5 (can cause heart & lung disease),
- Radon (classified as a carcinogen),
- Benzene (capable of causing leukemia),
- Formaldehyde (again a classified carcinogen)
were way above permissible levels than the WHO recommended values like
The health outcomes and their association with environmental exposure were identified as follows:
- The study also found increased instances of asthma attack and nasal allergies, blocked nose followed by a runny nose, feeling cold or feverish, having a headache, feeling tired and having a sore throat.
- All of these sound mild but are serious starting symptoms of negative health effects of exposure to indoor pollutants. Sustained exposure to these dangerous pollutants is capable of causing more fatal issues progressively – from cancer, permanent lung damage to pulmonary diseases.
You can read the findings and what sustained exposure can lead to, here.
Please do not forget indoor air pollution children suffer from at school adds up the that at home. So fact is: The air pollution monster is not children’s fantasy, but for real. This in developing as in non developing countries. The monster only wears a different mask.
How does the indoor air pollution monster try to scare your babee?
Indoor air pollution is a monster that comes after all of us. However it’s capable of doing more harm to children. Fetus and newborns also have greater vulnerability. That’s because:
- Unlike us grown ups, our little ones are still developing. Their bodies have a weaker immune system and a still developing respiratory system.
- With a weaker system, children end up having a higher absorption rate of the contents of air they inhale due to slower clearance of toxicants, decreased ability to detoxify harmful chemicals or to repair damaged DNA.
- In addition, because of their smaller body weights, children breathe in and retain more air pollution per unit of body weight than adults.
- When children’s bodies becomes overloaded, they cannot deal with more toxins. They may begin to have adverse reactions to certain exposures.
- Even minor exposures that may have zero effect on us, can be a toxic overload for our children making them very ill.
To read further, click here.
So how does one fight this invisible monster?
Firstly the bright side of the story is that indoor air pollution is very recognizable. You can easily spot it once you recognize these three forms it takes, based on the nature of pollutants:
- Chemical pollutants: Chemical pollutants are found in things like cleaning agents, airfreshners, gases emitted from various machinery and heatling appliances etc. volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phthalates, radon, formaldehyde etc.
- Organic contaminants: Organic pollutants are biological allergens like mould, household allergens from dust mites, pets and cockroaches, pollens, etc.
- Physical pollutants: Physical pollutants are actual particles that may mostly be used in the construction of your building etc. particles and fibres (asbestos, artificial mineral fibres), etc.
Or take a look at this diagram we found for you and scan your house for these pollutants.
While in our next article(continue reading at the end of this feature) we’ll give you the A-Z checklist of how to banish indoor air pollutants from your house, here’s a quick checklist to start fighting these monsters right-away!
- Stop smoking altogether or definitely inside the house.
- Ventilate the house daily. Yes, it’s a myth that closing doors windows will keep out the pollution. Lack of ventilation will only increase it.
- Sweep a vacuum with a high-energy particulate airborne (HEPA) filter over your floors once a week. Wipe all other surfaces with a clean, damp cloth (make sure you dampen it with water—many spray cleaners, especially those with added fragrance, contain lung-irritating chemicals).
- Once a month, run your bedding—pillows, comforters, quilts—through a hot dryer cycle; the high temperature will kill any dust mites. Vacuum clean all upholstery and upholstered furniture every week.
- Less carpeting! Carpet materials can emit a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Switch to low-VOC, formaldehyde-free adhesives when getting new carpets installed. Air out new carpeting for a few days before installing it.
- Heating equipment, especially gas stoves, can produce carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates, which can cause respiratory problems and eye, nose, and throat inflammation. Hire a professional to check that your boiler or furnace is working properly every year and keep chimneys and other heating equipment well-maintained. Install carbon-monoxide alarms and use a hood over kitchen stoves. Ventilate your kitchen stove directly outside or open a kitchen window when you cook.
- To avoid fugal, bacterial pollutants, the key is controlling humidity. Install a dehumidifier to maintain humidity at home. Check your roof, foundation, and basement once a year to catch leaks or moisture problems. Clean ACs and dehumidifiers regularly to check growth of mold etc.
- Switch to natural fragrance-free cleansers as much as possible.
CONTINUE READING HOW YOU CAN MAKE YOUR HOME SAFE FROM INDOOR AIR POLLUTION
You know now that homes can carry hidden sources of indoor air pollution and it’s important to give our children and even ourselves a completely healthy and secure environment at home. So read our tips to get rid of pollution indoors at home and an easy decor guide that eliminates all sources of indoor pollution in your kid’s room.