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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

Indoor pollution: The enemy within

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Lucknow, November 14, 2012
First Published: 14:52 IST(14/11/2012) | Last Updated: 15:01 IST(14/11/2012)

If you thought only outdoor air pollution was hazardous, then think twice. The atmosphere within your house itself could lead to respiratory infections, lung cancer and heart disease.

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Air pollution indoors can at times be worse than outside. Reason: Paints, carpets, upholstery, plywood, particle-board furniture, and computers let off poisonous gases. As most of the houses are well insulated, these poisons are trapped inside for us to breathe.

A study by a Tel Aviv University researcher has concluded that indoor air pollution may lead to repeated episodes of cardiac ailments in the long term. Pollen, fungal spores, dust mites, dust may trigger asthma, allergies and sinus infections.

Bacteria (1 to .03 micron in size), virus (.001 micron) usually spread in rooms to spread influenza, tuberculoses, pulmonary diseases and H1N1 flu. Similarly, paint solvents, automobile exhaust cleaning and industrial chemicals from cooking appliances may lead to headache, fatigue, dizziness, irritation in the eyes, nose and throat, says the study.

Second-hand smoke is the third leading cause of lung cancer and responsible for an estimated 3,000 cancer deaths every year.

Children are the most vulnerable to this as they are exposed to the risk of ear infection, asthma attacks, which affect their respiratory tract.

Common culprits

Formaldehyde is used in plywood, particle board and glues. It's found in most cabinets, carpets and walls. Formaldehyde is regularly brought into homes in grocery bags; it's even in some tissues and paper towels. Formaldehyde is also released in cigarette smoke and from fuel burning appliances.

Benzene is a petrochemical; it's used in detergents, latex paints, oils, foams, dyes and rubber. It's common in building material, exhaust fumes, and especially in cigarette smoke. Benzene is even found in some pharmaceuticals and it's known to induce leukemia.

Trichloroethylene, a central nervous system depressant, is found in paints, lacquers, carpet shampoos, spot removers and adhesives. It's also used in dry cleaning, although this is becoming less so. Since trichloroethylene has contaminated some of the water supply, it can also enter the air of your home from shower vapours.

Carbon Monoxide is found in homes with gas stoves, and is regularly found in high concentrations with worn or poorly maintained furnaces. Carbon monoxide also enters homes with attached garages from car exhaust. In high levels, carbon monoxide can cause sudden death.


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