5 Top Ways to Reduce the Impact of Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution is one of the greatest environmental dangers of the 21st century. According to the World Health Organization, more than 7 million people die each year due to the adverse impacts of air pollution on respiratory, cardiovascular and neurovascular systems. Recent studies have also found that the indoor air pollution can also have devastating impacts on mental well-being, ranging from mood disorders to neurodegenerative diseases. Let us explore how we can reduce our exposure to indoor air pollution, thus avoiding physical health and mental well-being issues:

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1. Natural Ventilation

It is the best way to allow fresh air into indoor living spaces. Natural ventilation allows replacement of stale air with fresh air, thus helping to control room temperature, replenish oxygen, remove maldors and harmful airborne pollutants, and expelling carbon dioxide.

Short-term indoor activities, like painting, welding, soldering or sanding, have the potential to generate high levels of toxic pollutants which may persist in the air over a long period of time unless ventilation systems are used. Harmful indoor pollutants, such as formaldehyde and radon, can contribute to building-related illnesses commonly known as the sick building syndrome. It is essential to have a proper design of the ventilation system in order to provide indoor air free from pollutants.

2. Air Cleaners

An air cleaner improves the indoor air quality by removing pollutants from the air in a confined space, especially particle pollution. Air purifiers can effectively remove the common indoor air pollutants such as malodors, smoke, dirt and pet dander. The filter in the clean air captures the pollutants while the clean air is introduced into the room using the in-built fan. The filters are made up of paper, fiberglass or mesh, and require periodic cleaning and replacement.

3. Dehumidifiers

Humidity has a major influence on indoor air quality. High levels of humidity encourage the growth of mold, dust mites, pollen and bacteria, besides increasing the concentration of VOCs. The purpose of a dehumidifier is to reduce the moisture level (between 35 to 50%), thus improving indoor air quality.

Using a fan, the dehumidifier draws warm air currents into its coils which contracts as it is fed through the refrigerated. The condensation is left inside the dehumidifier and falls into the storage tank while the dried air is released back into the room.

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4. Houseplants

Plants have effective air cleaning qualities and absorbs air pollutants, thus acting as a natural air purifier that is both cost-effective and therapeutic.  Houseplants trap harmful toxins and remove common chemical compounds, such as formaldehyde, benzene and Trichlorothylene. Some of the popular air-purifying indoor plants include are rubber tree, spider plant, snake plant, weeping fig and peace lily.

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5. Therapeutic Methods

The mental health issues associated with indoor air pollution can be tackled by therapeutic tools. Environmental therapy aims to treat environment-related health problems by strengthening the connection between the environment and its elements. The popular nature-based therapy activities are nature meditation, horticultural therapy, animal-assisted therapy and nature conservation tasks.

Light therapy is an emerging therapy which involves the use of an artificial source of light to treat depressive disorders with seasonal patterns, sleep issues and other types of depression. The patient sits near a device called light therapy box which gives off bright light that mimics the natural light. It is believed that light therapy has a positive impact on brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, thus easing depressive disorders. Light therapy is also known as phytotherapy.

Bottom Line

Indoor air pollution is responsible for a wide range of physical and mental health issues. To mitigate the harmful impacts of air pollution, you can improve natural ventilation, use air purifiers, dehumidifiers and houseplants in your premises, and opt for therapeutic treatment tools.

Impacts of Environmental Crisis on Mental Health

Our environment is deteriorating at a rapid pace which is impacting our daily lives in more ways than one. Environmental degradation is associated with many outcomes that may have direct as well as indirect impact on physical health as well as mental health of human beings. In recent years, the deterioration of the environment has emerged as a key contributor to increases cases of psychological ill-health across the world.

Environmental change–triggered extreme weather conditions, loss of natural environments, changing climate patterns, contaminated food, water and air are now acknowledged as major contributors to PTSD, anxiety, aggression, depression and breakdown of relationships.

What is Mental Health?

Mental health encompasses emotional, psychological, behavioral, and social well-being of an individual. It decides how a human being adapts to stress of life and impacts how we think, feel, and act. Mental health also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Environmental deterioration can cause and heighten pressure and uneasiness, thus unfavorably affecting psychological wellness and forcing people to seek help of mental therapists and psychologists. For example, hurricanes or severe droughts can cause depression, anger, and provoke sadistic attitude.

Everybody is in danger, yet not every person is influenced similarly. People who are more prone to mental health impacts of environmental changes include children, elderly and women. Among disadvantaged and marginalized groups, those with close bonding to the land, such as farmers and tribal communities, are more at risk.

How Environmental Degradation is Aggravating Mental Health?

Each aspect of the environment has an interrelated impact on mental health of human being. For example, children are more prone than young people to changes in their environment. The nascent mind is most delicate in the womb while early adolescence is sensitive to toxic physical, chemical and biological exposures. The harmful emissions from the transportation sector and industries coupled with waste generation from domestic and commercial sectors are the major contributors to modern-day pollution problem.

Social components, including poverty, education, employment, income, security, social support and housing are also determinants of mental health that likewise alter or overstate the impacts of exposures to physical factors in the environment. The total impacts of toxic environmental exposures over the existence course can cause physiological interruptions that persevere in future, and lead to deep rooted hindrances of physical or mental well-being.

Children can be exposed to toxins prenatally, and when they inhale poor air, drink contaminated water, breastfeed, ingest food and contact polluted soil and items. The major harmful compounds in the natural and built environments that influence neuro-development and the mental health include Lead, Manganese, Cadmium, Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons and Organochlorine and Organophosphate Pesticides.

People living in rural agricultural areas are more exposed to pesticides. Overwhelming metal contaminants and pesticides have been found to be agents that help develop Hyperactivity Behavior, including Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Noise and traffic-related exposures in the built environment have been related with poor mental health results.

Major acute mental health effects include trauma and shock, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compounded stress, anxiety, substance abuse, and depression. Major chronic mental health effects incorporate higher paces of aggression and violence, mental health emergencies, an exaggerated feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, or fatalism, fear, and loss of emotions. Thus, the prevalent environmental crisis can intensify chronic symptoms and lead to more serious mental health issues in all parts of the world.

BetterHelp.com offers access to licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists (PhD/PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), and board licensed professional counselors (LPC).

Final Words

The mental health consequences of the environmental crisis transcend countries, income-groups, race, religion and culture. The psychological wellness of the entire humanity has been negatively affected by rapid changes in the natural and built environments during the last 50 years or so. The urgent need of the hour it to address the wide array of environmental issues and their interconnected mental health effects through broader international and multi-sectoral cooperation, political struggle and a mass movement for environmental stability.