Effects of poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) on human health and animal health

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| 2018 May 11 |
Effects of poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) on human health and animal health

University: University of Ottawa

We are what we eat, drink and breath. So in this essay I would like to discuss how does what we breath affect what we are. This paper covers the health effects of poor indoor air quality on humans and animals. The affects on both groups are the same and can be used interchangeably. On average a person at rest breathes about 23,040 breaths per day (Meade, 2010). This amounts to 11000 litres of air volume inhaled per day (, 2000). Sadly, the air we take in with all those breaths is far from healthy. We have grown so used to low air quality that we do not know what breathing a truly clean air feels like. If it is not clean air, then what do we actually breath in? Both indoor and outdoor air contain billions of tiny particles. Many of them are harmful to our bodies. Those are called air pollutants. Many outdoor air pollutants are found indoors and vice versa. Although, for the past several centuries the concentration of some air pollutants has decreased concentration of others has increased and it is not clear whether the overall exposure to air pollution from indoor and outdoor sources has increased or decreased.

The negative health effects of both indoors and outdoors pollutants are generally the same. Let’s turn our discussion to indoor pollution. Common indoor air pollutants include synthetic perfumes found in cleaning products, beauty products (Ahmed, 2018), second hand cigarette smokes, radon gas, carbon monoxide and others (Baker, 2013). Please also note, that every human’s biology is highly individual, and you may experience symptoms that no one else does, and the
above list provides only the common symptoms. Also, some air pollution related symptoms may go undiagnosed or never investigated. So what effect does poor Indoor Air Quality have on us and our beloved pets?

Short Term Effects

What short term effects you will be suffering from depends on which of the following groups you belong to. The general population will experience sore and dry throat, sore eyes, tickly cough, sneezing, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, upper respiratory congestion (Bluepoint Environmental, s.d.), it was also noticed that in very polluted cities and hence houses people experience nose bleeds and blood thickening and darkening. Moreover, inhaling polluted air also causes immediate constriction of blood vessels even in healthy adults (Brook 2002). Adults and children with lung or heart conditions might additionally experience worsening of their heart and lung conditions related symptoms and may need to increase their medication intake (Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs, 2013).

Long term effects

Let’s first look at what happens when an air pollutant particle enters your body. Air pollutants enter our bodies through lungs, skin and eyes. A pollutant is a particle foreign to our body and we have not evolved to deal with large quantities of them. When these particles enter our bodies, they get absorbed into the tissues, go into blood, create deposits and clogs in our arteries, damage our brain tissue and do much more. Thereafter, the paper investigates the effects in more detail.

Effects on the brain and nervous system

Scientists discovered that the harmful particles cause alternations in the blood-brain barrier, degeneration of neurons, death of white matter cells, deposits and plagues and tangles of neuro fibres and even diseases like Alzheimer’s (Lilian Calderon-Garcidueñas et. al., 2002). A study by Lilian Calderon-Garcidueñas et. al. (2002) carried on animals found that some subjects exhibited decrements of attention and activity, and disturbances of the sleep-wake cycle. One subject
showed signs of pre-dementia. Subjects also sometimes failed to recognise their care-takers and showed episodes of decreased body language.

Effect on immune system and respiratory system

People exposed to air pollution can develop “allergy” to it. Allergy itself is just a response of the immune system to bacteria, viruses as well as other particles considered as a threat. After long exposure to the pollutants the immune system develops allergy like response to air pollutant particles but also the already existing allergies are aggravated. This in turn causes asthma and permanent cellular inflammation (Saxon & Diaz-Sanc Picture 1. Areas affected by air pollutants (upper body).

Effects on cardio-vascular system

With regards to heart and blood vessels, air pollutants are deposited in clogs in our vessels and hence increase the risk of a vessel bursting open, stroke (death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen) and heart attack (death of heart muscles due to lack of blood supply) and many more. Air pollution increases the risk of atherosclerosis (plague build up in arteries), hence a high blood pressure and other cardio-vascular diseases thus placing an individual into the “vulnerable” category and then the individual will be more susceptible to effects like ischemia symptoms, strokes, arrhythmias even after a short-term exposure of just few hours to few weeks (Brook, R.D. et. al. 2010).

Effects on liver

The harms caused by air pollutants to cardio-vascular system and lungs is heavily discussed and is a well-known topic. However, air pollution also has negative health effects on liver and this subject deserves much more attention than it receives. Liver is the organ that cleans our blood from waste products, toxins and other harmful substances. So it takes all the pollutants we breath in while spending our time indoors from our blood excretes what it can excrete and stores what it can not. Research has linked bad air quality to liver cancer, liver fibrosis (scaring of the liver) and cirrhosis (loss of liver cells) (Lutz, 2015).
Effects on kidneys Like liver, kidneys have been overlooked. Kidneys, like liver, process blood and excrete wastes and toxins. However, some toxins and wastes remain inside the kidneys. Indoor and other air pollution increases the risks of chronic kidney disease, kidney failure (Bowe 2017). Study by Benjamin Bowe (2017) found that even small exposure has adverse effects and the scientists have even found a relationship between pollutants concentrations below accepted norms and kidney disease (Bowe 2017).

Effect on eyes

Another overlooked organ is the eye. Indoor and outdoor air pollution causes dry eye syndrome (Rebuild Your Vision, s.d.). Moreover, though not totally proven there is evidence that air pollutants cause alternations on the ocular surface (Torricelli 2011).


We spend almost all our time indoors. Low indoor air quality has many impacts on human and animal health. So if one wants to enjoy life to the full extent, one should make sure that the air indoors is fresh and clean of pollutants.


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