Indoor Air Pollution

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Many people think of pollution as the air that we breathe outdoors. Not everyone realizes that the air we breathe indoors is much more polluted.
There are pollutants in the atmosphere that have reached a level that is causing a threat to the health of individuals. Pollution began in the early times from the gases of molten volcanic activity being released into the atmosphere. Additional pollutants were caused by the combustion of biomass, volatilization of organic compounds, and the release of bio-effluents from living organisms. Pollutants can be caused by the natural movements and actions of the planet itself. Particles can become suspended in the air by abrasive action of surface winds, fires, wave action, and the fracture of crystalline aerosols. Spores, fibers, and seeds can cause natural biological pollution. Even these natural events can have an adverse effect on the climate and weather as well as agriculture and humans.

When humans began building shelters for themselves they brought outdoor pollutants indoors with them. When an outdoor pollutant enters a building it becomes a source of indoor pollution. With the discovery of fire which was used for cooking and heat came smoke. The coldness and dampness of shelters was the perfect place for mildew to grow. The first shelters also had dirt floors which allowed for diseases to be transmitted from pests, microorganisms, and pets.

Since the times of dirt floors we have industrialized not only on a personal level with the construction of our homes, but also on a business level with the construction of our factories and office buildings. The increase in population has caused the increase in the use of fuels and agricultural and mineral resources. As a result of these increases air pollution has become a worldwide problem.

In 1973 with the oil embargo came the rise of energy conserving practices and devices. This had a direct effect on the indoor air of the nation. Machines were made to run more efficiently and furnaces were designed to waste less heat. Insulation in houses and other buildings reduced ventilation and stopped drafts by tightening the homes and buildings. As a result indoor air pollution complaints increased because the pollutants were bottled up inside the buildings with no way of escaping. Not all indoor air pollution is a result of energy conservation practices. The Department of Public Health defines atmospheric pollution as the ambient air space of one or more air contaminants in such quantities and of such duration as to cause a nuisance, be injurious or be potentially injurious to human or animal life, or to unreasonably interfere with the enjoyment of life and property.

Human exposure to air pollution comes from pollutants that are remitted into the indoor environment from furnishings, structural components, and other products that society has developed. Contaminants from the outside can contribute to human exposure both directly and indirectly if they get inside a building. Indoor sources of air pollutants can include unvented combustion, evaporation of organic compounds, abrasion, release of microorganisms, and intrusion of radon.

Everyday living environments and working environments have air polluting sources. People and pets can be the source of fibers, particles, organic vapors, and microbiological materials. Other indoor pollutants can come from heating and cooking combustion sources, emissions from tobacco, abrasion of surfaces, out gasing of vapors, intrusion of soil gases, and an overabundance of biological sources. Indoor environments are substantially more polluted than nearby outdoor air. A person who is exposed to high concentration of pollutants in an indoor setting may find that they feel discomfort, irritation, illness, and may even die as a result of the pollutant. This is known as sick building syndrome.

Sick building syndrome has been known to be the cause of sensory irritation in eyes, nose...
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