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Coughing? Difficulty breathing? Asthma? It could be due to indoor air pollution.
Both outdoors and indoors, air quality affects our health. After all, air is vital for life, so it is important to understand how it can impact us and our families.
There are many different sources of air pollution. Indoors, the biggest causes are cookstoves (especially those using wood, charcoal, kerosene, or gas), smoking, dust, and mould. A lot of outdoor pollutants can also come inside our homes through gaps and cracks; this is called ‘seepage’.
PM2.5 Can Build Up Indoors
Over time, high concentrations of dangerous pollutants like PM2.5 can build up indoors. In poorly ventilated homes where fuels like wood and kerosene are used for cooking or lighting, levels of indoor PM2.5 can be up to 100 times higher than recommended.
In fact, every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3.8 million people die prematurely from illnesses caused by poor indoor air quality.
Indoor Air Pollution Can Affect Our Lungs, Heart and Brain
When pollutants enter our lungs, they affect many of our bodies’ systems: respiratory (breathing), cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels), neurological (nerves), and others. Over many years, breathing in these pollutants can cause serious health problems, including heart disease, lung disease, stroke, and cancer. For example, 12% of all deaths due to strokes and 11% of deaths caused by lung disease are believed to be caused by indoor air pollution.1
Even short-term exposure to pollutants can impact our health. Coughing, breathing difficulties, itchy eyes, headaches, dizziness, skin irritations, and tiredness are all caused by indoor air pollution, and existing health problems such as asthma are often made worse.
When multiple types of pollutants are present, the health impact is even more complicated. For example, a house that has mould problems and is located near a busy road will have a more significant impact on residents’ health than a house with just mould problems.
Children And Pregnant Women Are Most At Risk
Indoor air pollution particularly affects women and children. Women are twice as likely to die of lung disease if they are exposed to high levels of indoor smoke, and pregnant women are more likely to miscarry or give birth to small babies2. For young children, their lungs are still developing so they are very vulnerable to damaging pollutants. Among children under the age of five who die of pneumonia, almost half are caused by PM2.5 inhaled from household air pollution.3
The longer we breathe polluted air, the more our bodies are affected. This is a big problem for large cities like Jakarta where the air quality is consistently poor. That’s why air quality monitoring is very important to understand if our air at home is polluted.
3Mondal D, Paul P. 2020. ‘Effects of indoor pollution on acute respiratory infections among under-five children in India: Evidence from a nationally representative population-based study’, PLoS ONE 15(8): e0237611. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0237611