The criminals inside every home

So much information about this criminal inside every home is splashed almost daily in our newspapers, they are discussed on panels on almost every news channel, and almost every kerb-side conversation is about them. And yet, they roam like the entire world was there at their feet. They are robbers, thieves, murderers, kidnappers, and molesters rolled into one and yet we are constantly allowing them to invade our privacy. We allow them access and those who try not to, discover that they have all the passwords and can come in and create havoc anytime. They make themselves feel at home in our cushions and on our sofas, they hug our walls and furniture, they hiss and roar from our kitchens, float in the air that we breathe, and can find ways to infect the water with which we bathe… and they constantly guffaw and announce, ‘We are here to make your life hell!’

Who are these criminals?
Why are they so unafraid?
What do they really want?

You know them. You know them all. You even know what they are called… even their nicknames. And yet, most of us appear to helplessly accept their presence as if they were the new-age demi-Gods. They are nothing better than villains and must be dealt with a firm hand. I say this because I have literally caught a few of them by their ears and thrown them out of my home. But they keep coming back… wave after wave… and they sometimes seem like armies that cannot be conquered. But I know better.

So, who are these criminals?

They are all from one family though they may all claim to have a different genealogy. I simply call them pollutants. Some of us have divided them into outdoor and indoor pollutants but listen, with our windows and doors open most of the time, they are easily able to come and go at will. Have you looked closely at the dust that arises from construction material? Have you ever peeped into the pipes and ducts of the heating apparatus or the air-conditioning, or the nooks and crevices in the kitchen? Have you bothered to identify them in the folds of furnishings, the underbelly of cushions, and the pores of your upholstery? Have you even tried to sniff out their presence from coats of paint all around or the rapidly drying layers of floors mopped with disinfectants and detergents? Do you even know what happens when you spray insecticides with an assumption that you are now safe? Have you thought about all the smoke that emanates from cigarettes or even when food is being cooked? As I have already said, they are everywhere and they are slimy enough to escape your attentive wrath, if you really directed some at them. These pollutants are smart and can even come in the guise of smells that we sometimes love… petrol fumes are a great example here.

‘Ha! I stay away from urbanized jungles,’ one friend said. I told him that indoor pollution wasn’t an exclusively urban problem. Charcoal, logs in hearths, animal dung used in kitchens, and almost all the others that I have listed so far, are present even in homes that are away from traffic snarls and high-rises under construction.

‘My friend, these pollutants use the power of wind and breeze to reach everywhere,’ I said, and added that in most of our dwellings we do not have adequate ventilation to shoo them out and so we end up breathing in a lot of carbon monoxide in addition to other rather life-threatening contaminants. It took me some time to explain to my friend that pollution isn’t happening only in developed countries and that the statistics of fatalities because of them is alarming. They may appear to be dense and more dangerous outside, but they are there inside our homes as well. For those who are unaware, the aerosols that we use, the nitrous oxides from cooking gas, and the VOCs from paints happily join hands to make life difficult for us wherever we are – inside or outside.

I told my friend that particulate matter or PM isn’t a demon just outside the home. Dust, soot, ash, and even the pollutants because of fuel combustion come as larger PM 10 villains and a lot of them exist as PM 2.5 as well. Carbon monoxide or CO isn’t present only on our roads but even electric utilities and fuel for cooking give out a lot of it. The VOCs or the volatile organic compounds come disguised as incense sticks, paint, and LPG. Even old paint within the four walls can contain heavy metals such as Lead and Mercury. SulphurDiOxide and Ozone are reactive enough to reach in the most unimaginable sites even inside the home. ‘And so we have more than 4.3 million people dying every year because of exposure to pollutants inside the homes,’ I added, ‘and it isn’t me but the statistics from WHO saying this.’

‘Only recently I read an article where researchers at the Patel Chest Institute discovered that burning of incense sticks increased the particulate matter (PM) to up to 15 times more than what is safe within homes,’ I said, and could see the look of concern on his face. ‘Well,’ I added, ‘I’ve stopped using incense stick at home.’

‘Not even during poojas?’

‘Not even then.’

These pollutants, by the way, remain bold because we are unwilling to change. We need to take steps that curbs the birth of these pollutants and only then there might be some respite.

‘I agree,’ said my friend, ‘but don’t you think we are making a mountain of a molehill? I mean, a bit of sore throat can be the maximum trouble. Why compromise with our habits, customs, and systems?’

Now I got really annoyed and told him in no uncertain terms that he was simply being foolish. ‘If you think that gases like methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, ammonia, sulphides, carbon monoxide and non-methane organic compounds such as benzene and vinyl chloride are going to enter your life and leave without giving you permanent scars, you must think again. And why just scars, they are capable of the worst things that you can think of.’ By the way, Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical that carpets and particle boards throw around inside the home.

‘Really? They don’t seem to be so dangerous except for having difficult spellings sometimes.’

‘Come on, don’t be daft. How do you think plaques are formed inside the walls of your arteries? Pollutants precipitate them. Why do you think so many of us are going around with persistent dry cough or phlegm discharge? Do you want cardiac and pulmonary diseases to disable you? There are instances where even cerebral stroke happens suddenly. But then nothing ever happens suddenly. These pollutants build up their ill-effects over a long period of time and when they strike, they kill.’

‘Phew! Big words and big diseases.’

‘The effects aren’t always life-threatening. But they can certainly squeeze the joy out of your life,’ I replied, ‘and inflammation of the eyes is a good example. At least I’ve found a lot of my friends walking around with watery eyes and it makes them less productive, if not anything more serious.’

‘Yes, this is rather common.’

‘What about all the incidents of dizziness?’ I said, ‘these bouts happen when poisonous gases combine with the blood and reduce glucose and oxygen uptake.’

This isn’t all. The rising incidents of pneumonia, bronchitis, cancer, heart disease and asthma are enough proof that pollution, and indoor pollution in particular, have made themselves express their intent openly and aggressively. Some of these are also carcinogenic and can cause not just cancer that is known but also cause irreversible mutation of our cells going astray, so to say.

‘All this sounds really terrible,’ said my friend, ‘but why isn’t the government doing something about it? After all we have elected people from our midst to go and legislate well and they cannot possibly be doing nothing.’

‘YOU,’ I said, ‘you are the one where every positive action needs to start from.’ I then quoted Jacques-Yves Cousteau who wrote: ‘Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.’ I added, ‘we need to stop converting our world into dangerous garbage cans. The steps that each of us adopts can do this.’

I had no alternative but to list out a few actionable things that we all can adopt at our end to bid adieu to this menace. This list can go on and on, but these are some of the things that I have observed around me and have tried to add them to the way we live. Believe me, even a part of this list, if adopted, can lead to fairly reasonable results.

  1. Stop defending the sources of indoor pollution… well, we can go a step forward and stop defending or protecting issues that cause even outdoor pollution. After all, the pollution outside does makes its way inside our homes as well.
  2. Bloggers can and must stop writing about products that can cause pollution to get intensified.
  3. Maintain a clean house with a minimalist setting that makes it difficult for pollutants to become long-term residents.
  4. Make sure that the paint used for the walls is technically proven to reduce pollutants. I did come across a write-up where Royale Atmos from Asian Paints claims to do this besides having the ability to absorb foul smells. Anything that helps purify the air and improve air quality within homes needs to be considered.
  5. Smoking leads to more than one problem and, if curtailed, can be beneficial. The best, however, is to eliminate it completely from your life.
  6. Ventilation within the home is vital. Many problems happen because of ill-ventilated homes where all sorts of fumes and odours remain suspended.
  7. Training your pets to poop at the right place is good… and just as essential is to clean up when they do so.
  8. Trash anywhere can be dangerous. Have bins placed in every room so that trash finally gets disposed-off cleanly. Do not litter. Adding to this is the need to adopt and communicate the advantages of recycling.
  9. Using water-based paints and air-freshners is obviously advisable. This also points to making sure that most of your purchases for your home are environmentally safe.
  10. However romantic it sounds, we need to reduce the use of fireplaces and stay away from stoves that use wood. This not only prevents indoor pollution but also saves our trees.
  11. Every time I have noticed a gardener or a sweeper burning leaves, I have asked him not to. Burning leaves and other material is a big source of air pollution and because these things happen near our homes, the pollution index inside homes gets disturbed. If you are having trouble getting rid of problem insects, consider hiring a pest control specialist. If you are searching for Athens OH pest control company contact Elite Pest Management.
  12. A rather noticeable action in our kitchens is the way fat, oil, and grease is simply poured down the drain. Even household chemicals and cleaning agents are poured irresponsibly. There are instances of pills and other expired medications are allowed to reach our drains. These actions lead to our drains becoming safe havens for the growth of bacteria that finally emerge to infect us. Please do not use the sink or the toilet as a garbage flush.
  13. Another friend has told me that getting our homes tested for radon and using carbon monoxide detectors is a good idea. Haven’t tried this but I guess if indoor pollution goes on unabated, we will also need to consider radon mitigation and get more services here.
  14. Regular dusting, home-cleaning and vacuuming, and fixing of water leakages are anyway vital.
  15. Biological pollutants which constitute of dust, fungi, allergens are also all around us that need to be combated. If you are having trouble getting rid of problem insects, consider hiring a pest control west virginia specialist.
  16. I have around thirty potted plants in my balcony and some in my living room as well as in the bedroom. Some of these plants are there because I find them easy to maintain but some of them help me in getting rid of pollutants that are all over the home. A list of some plants is included and you can choose a few of them for your home:

Aloe Vera or Aloe barbadensis helps filter benzene and formaldehyde.

Spider Plant or Chlorohytum comosum helps remove formaldehyde from polluting the indoor air besides fighting benzene, carbon monoxide and xylene.

Gerber Daisies or Gerbera jamesonii absorbs carbon monoxide and benzene and gives off oxygen at night.

Snake Plants or Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’ is also called the mother-in-law’s tongue and filters out formaldehyde besides eliminating nitrogen dioxide.

Golden Pothos or Scindapsus aures is a fast-growing vine and counters the ill-effects of formaldehyde.

Chrysanthemum or Chrysantheium morifolium is a seasonal flower, and even during the six weeks that it blosoms, it is your protection against benzene.

Red-edged dracaena or Dracaena marginata is ideal for removing xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.

Bamboo palm or Chamaedorea Sefritzii is a natural humidifier that helps eliminate carbon monoxide, xylene, benzene and formaldehyde.

Weeping fig or Ficus benjamina counters villains like benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

Warneck dracaena or Dracaena Deremensis ‘Warneckii’ is a brilliant choice for eliminating VOCs, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

Lists such as the one I have created, can be rather disorienting, but if you go through it carefully and give it a second reading, you’ll find that all the things mentioned aren’t difficult at all. These are actions that are only reasonable and most of us must already be following a large part of it. But then what matters is following the entire list because even one element left unattended can lead to problems of pollution multiplying and getting out of hand. The criminals inside the home must be identified and thrown out. Let us make #CleanAirBeautifulHomes a reality.

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Future with indoor pollution. #CleanAirBeautifulHomes

Future with indoor pollution. #CleanAirBeautifulHomes

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Other posts on pollution written by me:

The invasion of Bollywood villains

The song of the artsy cow

Policing the language of pollution

Let us extend our stay on earth

The Da Vinci of Death

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Arvind Passey
18 September 2017