* Poor ventilation main cause of indoor pollution
* Women more exposed to danger
* EPD to launch a project against indoor air pollution
By Abdul Manan
LAHORE: Diseases found in about 60 percent of Pakistani women are caused by poor ventilation, and the Environment Protection Department (EPD) has yet to launch any project or awareness programme to combat indoor air pollution.
Environmentalists say that indoor smoke, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems (climate control), mould (fungus), pesticides, radon gases and stagnant water are the major sources of indoor air pollution.
“Lack of adequate ventilation in houses gives birth to various diseases, and people have been experiencing the problem for centuries,” said Dr Muhammad Nawaz Chaudhry, an environmentalist at the Punjab University. He said that smoke (from tobacco and fuels) was the most common and hazardous indoor air pollutant, adding that cooking and heating with solid fuels resulted in high levels of indoor air pollution. He said that fungus released toxic spores, which on inhaling over a period of time could cause chronic inflammation and the scarring of lungs. He said that air pollution could also cause infections, asthma, and lung cancer, besides headaches, dry-eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue.
Women first: Pakistan Medical Association Chairman Dr Masood Sheikh told Daily Times that women and children were mostly affected by indoor air pollution.
He said that women were comparatively more vulnerable to diseases caused by indoor pollutants, as they spent most of their time in kitchens where there was poor ventilation. He said that respiratory problems and allergies in about 60 percent of female patients were caused by indoor air pollution.
He said that the residences of MM Alam Road were full of dust mites – also indoor pollutants – and cockroaches because of the restaurants on that road. He said that dead dust mites and their excrement could cause allergic reactions and asthma in people.
Dr Nawaz said that radon was thought to be the second most common cause of respiratory diseases, and the gas, at times, seeped up naturally from soil and rocks below buildings. “Due to modern houses having poor ventilation, the gas is confined inside the house, causing harm to the dwellers,” he added.
He said that pesticides applied deliberately or inadvertently in buildings to control ants, flies, fleas, moths and rodents were toxic to people as well. He said that pesticides could contaminate buildings with carcinogenic chemicals. He said that HAVC systems also contributed to indoor air pollution if filters and equipment were not maintained properly.
He said that gas and oil furnaces released carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, while furniture and carpets often contained toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and organic solvents. He said that coffee machines, fax machines, computers and printers also released dangerous gases like ozone (O3), which were highly oxidising.
Dr Nawaz said that a variety of household cleaning agents, personal care products, paints and solvents might be sources of hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals. He said that such components could cause dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions, and cancer.
Looking forward: EPD Secretary Major (r) Shahnawaz Bader told Daily Times that the issue of indoor air pollution in homes was a new thing for the department. He said that the EPD had previously worked on indoor pollution of industries, but no attention had been given to houses. He said that the EPD would soon launch a project regarding indoor air pollution.
He said that an awareness campaign to combat indoor air pollution would also be launched after the project.