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What is the indoor pollution?

A sly and subdle enemy living in your houses, schools and offices which causes around
4 milions of deaths each year.
di Sandro Iannaccone
A threat walks around our houses. But there is nothing to do with paranormal
activities: science, indeed, knows it very well. It has demonstrated its existence for
decades. We are talking about the indoor pollution, that is, according to the definition
of the Department of the Environment (1991), the presence in the air of indoors
settings of physical, chimical and biological elements which are not part of outdoors
high quality life-support systems.That is a risky problem to not understimate: the last
appraisal by the World Health Organization states that 4,3 milion of people die each
year all over the world because of this issue. Italy is no less so: the ISS (the Italian
Nationa Institut of Health) classifies, in his 2012 report, the healthcare, economic and
social damage due to the indoor pollution as << extremely high >>. Deaseases
connected to it are in fact very serious: it has been demonstrated that this kind of
pollution can cause bronchial asthma, myocardial infarction, lung cancer, a
group of pathologies recognised as coming from the sick-building syndrome.
Causes. Factors contributing to the pollution of an indoor setting are copious and
changeable in time according to the building sources, to the life-style of people living
in it and to the ventilation system. However, the most dangerous pollutants come from
human activities such as building materials and air treatment systems. One of the
main factors is tobacco smoke besides combustion processes including oil, gas,
kerosene, coal and wood (all things related to the act of cooking and heating).Other
pollution sources are house-cleaning and upkeeping products, parasite killers,
glues, adhesives and solvents.Last but not least: printers, plotters,
photocopiers and DIY products, bulding materials containing asbestos (the sadly
well know Eternit matter), chipboards, moquettes and upholsteries. Airconditioning do also their bit to increase the indoor air pollution: filters and drains
are in fact the perfect environment for molds and other dangerous biological
contaminants to grow up.
Pollutants. It's possible to classify the dangerous substances revealed in indoor
locations into three different categories: chimical, physical and biological pollutants.
Among the first ones the most dangerous are the nitrogen oxides coming from gas
or kerosene stoves, the sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide which it often related to
combustion processes (heating system and tobacco smokes among others), ozone,
particulate matter (PM), volatile organic compounds (VOT) and formaldheyde.
The most dangerous physical agent is radon, a chimical element leaking from the
underground of the building considered to be the second cause of lung cancer after
cigarette's smoke. The most common biological agents are, on the other hand,
bacteria, virus and fungus which usually reproduce themselves into air-conditioner,
humidifier and tanks.
Impacts on health. It has been a long time that scientists analyze the effect of
indoor pollutants on human health. That is why a remarkable number of studies are
available today. Scientific community divided them into three categories: buildingrelated illness (BRI), sick-building syndrome (SBS) and multiple chimical
sensibility syndrome. At the first group belong << symptoms, signs and diseases
showing up on one or more house mates and which are related to one peculiar
polluttant factor in the air>> whereas the second group includes <<all those

deseases affecting the majority of the people living in the building and having no
particular symptoms or agents>>. We ere talking about ocular, nasal or respiratory
system irritations, skin irritations, nervous diseases, olfaction or taste
problems which generates from several factors combined together.
What to do? To slightly reduce the negative effects of the indoor pollution, after you
have spot the problem, it is recommended to follow some simple rules which will
improve your daily life: avoid or limit, if it is possible combustion processes; do
not smoke indoors; use less chimical products to clean your home; use
electrostatic fabric to dust down your furniture; air out the rooms at least one hour
per day.
Moreover, you could take advantage of the property of phytopurification of many
plants , as shown by a study directed by NASA on the International Space Station:
some vegetable species can fulfill other tasks besides the oxygen production. For
example they can absorb and eliminate pollutant agents in indoor settings. Among
these plants you have beaucarnea,dracaena, philodendron, hedera,
dieffenbachia, spathiphyllum and ficus benjamina.