air-cloudsWhen you think of air pollution the first thought will probably about the co2 emissions of cars and trucks. But besides the outdoor pollution there is also indoor air pollution. Basically indoor air pollution describes the contamination of the air in our rooms caused by gases and particles. Although outdoor pollution is a much more known problem, the indoor air can actually be much more contaminated with particles than the outdoor! Scientists even estimate that more than 2 Million deaths are due to indoor air pollution, which is 4 times higher than the number of people who die because of outdoor air pollution.

Before you try to figure out the sources of the pollution you firstly have to distinguish between developing and developed countries. Developing countries are much more affected by indoor air pollution. The reason is that households in third world countries are more likely to heat and cook by burning fuels like, wood, charcoal and animal dung. During the process of burning the fuels a lot of pollutants are released into the air. These pollutants can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, cancer, heart disease or asthma. Overall 1.6 Million people die in developing countries because of the consequences of indoor air pollution each year.

The most dangerous indoor air pollutants for developed countries though are tobacco smoke and radon. Even if you just inhale the second-hand smoke it can cause health problems such as lung cancer or asthma. Just like tobacco the radioactive gas radon, which comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water causes a lot of health problems like lung cancer, too? Radon is totally invisible and colorless, so it is impossible to detect it without special equipment. (a simple test kit can be bought in most hardware stores)

Other dangerous pollutant causers in our household are `volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOC are carbon containing compounds which are released by nearly everything in our household (e.g. perfume, paint, plastic, furniture, carpet, paper and especially from conventional house cleaners, too!)

In general the VOC are dispersing in the air and are not that dangerous for our body. Nevertheless, the high concentration of the chemical substances and the often bad ventilation increase the risk to our health

Additionally we have dust mites, mold and pet dander even if you don`t have pets in our rooms. All together they are becoming a pollutant cocktail whose danger for the human body is not to be underrated!

What to do about it?

There are a lot of different ways to improve your indoor air quality. A good measure is to improve the ventilation of your house for a better exchange of outdoor and indoor air. Households in developing countries are often build without a good working ventilation. That is one of the major reasons why they suffer much more from the indoor air pollution than developed countries do. But just by opening the windows your air quality will not improve that much. A better way is to equip your window with trickle ventilation which is a 10 inch high screen with extra filters. It can be adjusted to most windows and allows fresh air in and helps escort the indoor pollutants outside. The Éco-quartier can teach you how to make your own ecological household cleaners using every day products, like vinegar and baking soda. that is about as low VOCs as you get!

Changing your cleaning products can help, too! Most of the cleaning products include a lot VOCs. That is why scientists recommend cleaning products with `low VOC` or `no VOC` which are not that strong and dangerous for our health.

We can also use Mother Nature to improve the air quality in our rooms. There are some plants which can be used to improve the indoor air quality, such as the spider plant. These plants are well known for absorbing pollutants. For example the Dracaena plants are able to blast 70% of the chemical substance Formaldehyde in 24 hours. So plants are not just helping you to make your room look nicer but also to make the air much cleaner.