The scaring phenomenon of worldwide air pollution and global warming have been so widely mediatized during the past decades, at such extent that there is a global awareness about the problem; even though opinions about it still diverge.
However, in South Africa, like in other parts of the world; most people think – wrongly – that air pollution is no longer a concern for them when they get inside their houses, and few people really know the existence of indoor air pollution and its far more devastating consequences.
But, first, what does the indoor pollution means and why is it so dangerous?
As its name suggests, the indoor air pollution designates the exposition to a polluted interior air, which is contaminated by toxins from various origins within the inner parts of enclosed buildings or spaces such as residential houses, schools, offices, hospitals; as well as vehicles or other means of transport.
It is obvious that people living in cities (especially inside townships) and some rural areas are most exposed to the devastating effects of indoor air pollution; as 80% of them spend their lifespan inside these interiors. Concerning residential houses, 50% of average people spend their lifetime inside their habitat.
Why is it the indoor pollution so dangerous and alarming?
Indoor air pollution is almost unstoppable. In fact, particles that pollutes the indoor air derivate from vital elements such as the material constituting the buildings (fibro-cement or even normal cement, paints, furniture…); as well as from the human activity (smokes from cooking, smoking, usage of cosmetics especially these in spray form…) or even from the normal biological human process (carbon dioxide elimination and volatile metabolites.
On the other hand, buildings of any kind and especially buildings are not hermetically closed; and end external pollution ends up reaching people inside their houses; henceforward adding to the already existing indoor air pollution; especially in places where there are many industries or car traffic (think cities) or coal power plants (think Mpumalanga that has been recently declared the most polluted place in the world).
In that regards, many experts declare that indoor air is far more dangerous as many pollutants that are found outside are also found indoor; although there are some pollutants that are only found indoors. Indeed, most experts estimate indoor air pollution is 5 to 10; even 15 times the outer pollution.
What is the burden of the indoor air pollution on South Africa’s public health sector?
Before talking about the particular situation of South Africa, let us recall that in a report released by the World Health Organization in 2012, it had already been highlighted that deaths related to air pollution reached 7 million per year worldwide. Amongst these deaths, 4.3 million were caused by the sole indoor air pollution! And in France alone, indoor air pollution was expected to kill 20,000 more people each upcoming year if nothing special were done.
In South Africa, figures are similarly daunting: back in 2007, Rosana Norman revealed in the SA Medical Journal that around 20% of South African households suffer the health effects of exposure to the indoor air pollution.
Among serious diseases that are caused or worsened by inhaling polluted indoor air, include (not limited to): lung disease, cancer, tuberculosis, cataracts, and other respiratory infections. Particularly, household air pollution causes acute lower respiratory tract infection, which ranks among the top killers of children under five in South Africa, eliminating the lives of 1 400 children per year.
In rural areas and underprivileged urban areas, children are more dangerously affected by indoor air pollution because their bodies are not fully developed; and yet they spend hours next to their mothers while they are cooking. Likewise, poor women are particular victims, because they spend most of their time in the fireplace breathing toxic smokes.
Finally yet importantly, polluted indoor perpetuates the poverty snare. Indeed, poor people can’t afford electricity, efficient stoves or low-smoke fuels. Consequently, they spend quite a lot of hours per day collecting firewood; facing various dangers in forests and return to be exposed to toxic fumes from burning firewood. Many become ill soon or later, and this disturbs their productivity at work, at school or in their households. Therefore, a vicious cycle is created in that poor health and poverty causes further poor health and poverty.
How can we alleviate sensibly the effects of indoor air pollution?
Thanks to the increasing awareness towards indoor air pollution, various more or less realistic solutions have presented to tackle the problem; most experts unanimously agreeing that there is no single once-off miraculous solution due to the previously mentioned reasons, but rather permanent strategies to reduce drastically the indoor air pollution. Hereafter, we give a list of the most commonly proposed solutions:
- Use polishes and hair sprays in well-ventilated areas
- Make sure your gas stove is well ventilated.
- Install exhaust hoods or fans in the kitchen and bathroom to reduce humidity.
- Ensure that the entire house, office or the car is properly ventilated.
- Avoid smoking indoors
- Get rid of odors; don’t mask them.
- Manage critters. 9. Cleaning and dusting should be thorough.
- Minimize clutter.
- Remove carpeting if possible.
- Make homemade cleaners. 13. Remove shoes at the door.
- Minimize the use of air fresheners.
- Keep trash covered.
- Reduce indoor chemical use.
- Have car emissions tested regularly.
- Test your home for radon.
- Fix water leaks.
- Use carbon monoxide detectors.
- Open the windows.
- Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
- Get rid of the scented and commercially made candles.
- Use more advanced furnace filters.
- Wisely choose air purifiers.
- Implement the use of houseplants to naturally purify indoor air.
Some of the above-listed strategies are inspired by common sense; others are backed by researches results. If you want to learn more about these strategies, please read this full article by clicking here.
However, as or us; we sincerely think that the use of good air purifier grants the most secure and efficient strategy of reducing drastically indoor air pollution. Indeed, there are abundant air purifiers out there. Nevertheless, choosing the quality one is a paramount key to get improved indoor air value. Actually, the best quality air purifiers are able to remove up to 99% of airborne particles.
Before we even get comments about this article, we easily foresee reasons that people will advance in order to explain why air purifiers are not commonly seen in our households; although we can find in most households quite expensive devices such as big flat TV, fridges, ovens, 4 and + plates stoves, expensive smartphones…
These are the reasons people may advance:
- Air purifiers are expensive;
- These things of indoor air pollutions are funny things that are brought by media and scientists to make scoops – after all, if it was a problem no one could survive, people have always been living inside their houses…
- There so many other dangers I should be worried about…
People who think that way may be understandable. Not everyone is aware of these outstanding dangers related to the indoor air pollution; and it is not per hazard that that indoor air pollution has been labeled as a silent killer. We have to reread the scaring statistics contained in various reports to be convinced.
Even if quality air purifies cost more, they are worth every rand because they constitute the most realistic and efficient solution; not to mention that they can be combined with other strategies in order to get better and improved indoor air quality.
We profoundly believe that such a device priced starting at R 600 is worth buying if we consider its ability to prevent deadly diseases that may arise from a longstanding exposition to dangerous indoor air pollution; that potential silent killer that you can’t see n0r smell; but is there damaging your health.
As a tech company, we promise to do an exclusive inventory of quality air purifiers that are available in South Africa, their prices and their comparative advantages. Just stay tuned and read our next articles.
Breathe clean air and stay Healthier.