Two atoms collide with each other while trying to board a train.

The first atom asks, "Are you alright?" "No, I lost an electron!" the other replied glumly. "You sure?" "Yes, I'm positive, he replied."

Indoor Pollution: The Dangers at Home

It is so refreshing to get back inside the house after a tiring day, leaving behind the noise, air and light pollution of the traffic. But did you know that pollution is as serious a problem indoors as it is outdoors?

The Unseen Dangers

As cities grow, buildings have become more crowded, with stuffy rooms and poor ventilation. Because of this, many pollutants get trapped in the indoor air and their concentration increases over time. Let's have a look at some pollutants.

Fossil Fuels: Whenever you cook food at home, some of the LPG gas you use escapes unburnt. LPG contains gases like hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Though released in quantities that are too tiny to detect or cause immediate harm, over time these gases can accumulate due to poor ventilation. Lesser fortunate families that use kerosene or firewood face even greater dangers. These pollutants can cause asthma, heart disease and cancer.

Smoking: It is sad but true that many people smoke at home. Smoke from bidis, cigars and cigarettes contain about 4000 different compounds. Some of the dangerous ones include formaldehyde, nicotine, aromatic hydrocarbons and particulate matter. Apart from harming the smoker, people around the smoker are also affected. Smoking is a major cause of asthma, cancer and lung infections.

Volatile Substances: We use many organic chemicals around the house, school or office for various purposes, including floor cleaners, paints, disinfectants, detergents, furniture polish, and laminates. These contain compounds like formaldehyde, toluene and acetone, which evaporate at room temperature. Much of the formaldehyde indoors comes from construction materials like plywood, particle boards, and insulating foam. These substances can cause skin rashes, irritate the eyes and lead to allergies.

Pollen and spores: Homes where the humidity is high (i.e. a lot of water vapour in the air) encourage the growth of fungi, moss and bacteria, which release spores into the air. These flourish in places like attics and corners that are difficult to reach and clean. House plants reared for their pretty flowers release pollen into the air. Pollen and spores cause asthma and allergies in sensitive people. Bacteria and fungi cause infections in the respiratory and digestive system.

Radioactivity: There's radioactivity all around us, because of the small quantities of uranium present in the soil. Over time this uranium decays to form radon gas, which accumulates in the house if poorly ventilated. Radon also escapes from cement, where it was originally trapped during its manufacture.

Making homes healthier

Reducing the effect of these pollutants requires just a few simple measures. Proper ventilation of the house is the best way. Every day, it pays to switch off the A/C for a few hours, open all the windows fully and switch on the exhaust fans. Don't allow anyone to hurt you or themselves by smoking indoors. When cooking food, ensure your burner burns with a bright blue flame (complete burning) rather than a flame tinged with yellow (incomplete burning).

Rather than give advice, why don't we share our tips with everyone? We invite you to post your ideas for keeping your home, office or school pollution-free. Just go over to Idea Bank and share your ideas! The best idea gets to be Idea of the Week and gets you bonus Daltoniums!

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