You've probably heard the saying, "You are what you eat." Well, consider this: "You are what you breathe." You breathe in more than just air.
Indoor air pollution is a severe environmental threat we often take for granted. EPA has shown that some indoor pollutants are often 2-5 times higher than typical outdoor concentration. It is especially alarming to consider that the average person spends about 90% of their time indoors, whether at home, at school, or at work.
The main environmental risk for people today is indoor air pollutants. In the home, everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning, and smoking or secondhand smoke, along with inadequate ventilation, can lead to harmful levels of indoor air pollution. Additionally outdoor pollutants can enter buildings through open doors, open windows, ventilation systems and cracks in structures.
In this blog post, we will provide you with indoor air quality facts to keep you informed and support you in finding ways to improve your personal environment. Let's get started!
1. Indoor Air Quality is Among the Top 5 Health Risks
Essentially, poor air quality causes a variety of health risks. It can lead to headaches, fatigue, and an itchy throat. However, it can worsen into respiratory infections and even heart disease when left untreated.
Among the leading causes of poor air quality is indoor particulate matter. Cooking and other combustion sources such as candles, fireplaces, unvented space heaters or kerosene heaters, and cigarettes generate these toxic particles. When you combine these particles with poor ventilation, your home's air quality can adversely affect your health.
In fact, in 2020, 3.2 million people suffered premature death globally from illnesses caused by indoor air pollution; 32% of these deaths resulted from ischaemic heart disease. This is followed by stroke, lower respiratory infection, pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. Air pollution is still a problem in the US with around 100,000 deaths.
Improvements to public health infrastructure targeting the adverse effects of air pollution are sorely needed. As a starting point, however, you can provide solutions in your home.
2. Your Furniture May be the Most Dangerous Culprit
You might be surprised to learn that your furniture can contribute to poor home air quality. Before 2006, furniture was frequently manufactured with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), chemicals used as flame retardants.
Along with these flame retardant chemicals, formaldehyde in particle wood, fumes from glue in rugs, stain-resistant compounds in couches, and even building materials such as lead, asbestos, and silica, are still present today and contribute to poor indoor air quality. New homes often can release pollutants for many years.
It is recommended that furniture is made from natural materials and fibers, such as wood, cotton, and wool. When purchasing new pieces of furniture, try to focus on those grown and manufactured without using harmful chemicals.
3. Air Fresheners can pollute your indoor air
Businesses often market air fresheners to make your home smell nice. However, the air fresheners you typically purchase at the local big box store contain several potentially harmful chemicals.
The use of air fresheners often leads to elevated levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in your indoor air. These VOCs (various chemicals such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes) are often difficult to smell in the air. However, they can irritate eyes, nose and throat, as well as cause headaches and nausea. The types and amounts of VOCs would vary depending on the fragrances used by these air fresheners.
If you still prefer an air freshener, ensure that it is a natural product with no harmful chemicals. On top of that, fragrances found in in household cleaners, laundry detergents, and other personal care products could also impact your indoor air quality. Changing out your air fresheners is a wise start, but consider switching to fragrance-free versions of other products.
4. Scented Candles are Quite Similar to Air Fresheners
Scented candles are often touted as a natural way to fill your home with scent. However, these candles may not be as safe as you think.
When scented candles made with paraffin wax are used, they can release particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and smoke. The particulate matter and soot could enter your lungs and extended exposure could lead to heart and lung problems. The volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde and benzene may be released depending on the fragrances. These VOCs over time are potentially cancer causing. People who are sensitive and have respiratory problems may be specially vulnerable. You may still enjoy the benefits of scented candles by choosing phthalate-free candles that contain 100% essential oils. Candles should be made from soy or beeswax waxes, and any formulated chemicals must be verified as non-toxic. Try to support candle-makers willing to provide full transparency by listing their ingredients.
5. 3D Printers may release pollutants
3D printers are becoming popular and many households have purchased 3D printers to translate their creative ideas into physical prototypes. These printers typically work by melting plastic filaments (such as PLA, ABS and PE) and then depositing them layer by layer as they form the printed object. Heating the plastic releases volatile compounds and ultrafine particles. Higher temperatures often lead to higher concentrations of particles. The filaments may also use various additives that are often not disclosed. These additives can produce high concentrations of VOCs that could also be inhaled along with the particulates. .
These emissions have been shown to be toxic and could negatively impact your health. You can minimize issues by taking various precautions when using 3D printers. First, operate them in well ventilated areas and move away from the printers when they are printing. Second, set the nozzle temperatures to the lower end of the recommended temperature range. Third, use filaments and printers that have been verified to produce less emissions. Lastly, use high quality MERV 13 filters and keep your HVAC fan running to quickly remove any emissions.
6. School Air Quality is Some of the Worst
Air quality in schools is a pressing issue, as exposure to pollutants can have serious health consequences for students and staff. In a school, there are nearly four times as many students as there are occupants in an office building of the same size.
Some primary sources of pollution in schools and most public buildings include building materials, cleaning products, pesticides, and diesel exhaust from buses and other vehicles. These air pollutants can cause respiratory problems such as allergies and asthma.
Poor air quality can also impact learning. Students exposed to pollutants often have trouble focusing and concentrating in class.
An effective approach to combating this is to install air filters in classrooms and other areas where students and staff spend time. Another is to use less toxic cleaning products and furniture.
At a higher level, we need policies that encourage environmental health and building air quality in public buildings, commercial spaces, and at home.
7. Poor Air Quality Exacerbates Asthma
Asthma is a condition that affects 1 out of 14 Americans and is one of the most common chronic illnesses in children. Poor air quality can exacerbate asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing.
Pollen counts, air pollution, and other indoor and outdoor sources of pollution are linked to this condition. People with asthma are especially sensitive to pollutants, and exposure can trigger an asthma attack.
If you have asthma, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions about how to avoid exposure to poor-quality air. You may need to take medication or use an inhaler when exposed to these pollutants. It would be best also to use a face mask to protect yourself from harmful chemicals in the air.
8. The Elderly Suffer Most
The elderly are one of the most vulnerable groups regarding air pollution. Many older adults spend most of their day indoors in nursing homes or living with family. Some estimate that they spend 19-20 hours a day inside.
The elderly are more likely to experience acute health and comfort effects due to long-term residence in a building, referred to as "sick building syndrome." This can be from various indoor sources of pollution, including building materials and furniture, as well as combustion from appliances, such as stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, grills, and fireplaces.
Those with weaker immune systems are less able to fight off the harmful effects of pollutants. The accumulation of these pollutants indoors can even result in carbon monoxide poisoning without natural ventilation.
9. Respiratory Health Damage
Many factors can cause poor indoor air quality, including inadequate ventilation, chemical pollutants from products used in the home, and biological pollutants such as pet dander, dust mites, and mold.
Poor indoor air quality poses a serious health risk. Particles as small as 0.3 microns can easily be inhaled and passed into the bloodstream, resulting in heart attacks and other health problems.
As a starting point, you can take several steps to improve the air quality in your home, such as ventilation, using low-emitting products, and cleaning up mold and dust. You should also keep your pets groomed and minimize the amount of pet dander in your home.
10. Secondhand Smoke Slows Immune Response
You already know that smoking is bad for your health. The same principle applies to receiving secondhand smoke.
The smoke from burning tobacco products, like cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, or pipes, and fire produced in fireplaces, may have adverse effects on the human immune system.
The immune system is a complex network of organs, tissues, and cells that work together to protect the body from infection and disease. If your immune system is compromised, you may have fewer natural killer cells and macrophages in your body responsible for killing tumor cells and destroying pathogens. Consequently, the body is impaired in its ability to fight infections.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is IAQ?
Indoor air quality, or IAQ, is a measure of the quality of air inside a building. Numerous health problems can be caused by poor indoor air quality, including respiratory diseases. Indoor air quality issues can include pollutants like cigarette smoke, dust, pet dander and environmental factors like humidity and temperature.
What are the sources of pollution?
Pollution occurs when contaminants are introduced into a natural environment and cause adverse changes. Pollution can take many forms, including chemical, biological, physical, and radioactive pollutants. The sources of pollution are many and varied.
What is "Healthy Buildings, Healthy People?"
The health and well-being of people are critical components of any society. Public or commercial buildings, whether they be homes, hospitals, schools, shops, or workplaces, can play an instrumental role in promoting the health and well-being of their occupants. Good indoor air quality, adequate lighting, comfortable temperatures, and reasonable noise levels are some factors that contribute to a healthy building.
What is Indoor Air Pollution?
Indoor air pollution is the presence of harmful chemical, biological, and physical contaminants within a building. The sources of indoor air pollution can include smoking, pets, furniture, cleaning products, and construction materials. These air pollutants can cause many health issues.
Where to Use a Fuel-Powered Portable Generator?
A fuel-powered portable generator can be a handy tool, but you should only use it as a backup power source during an emergency. You should always refrain from using a generator inside your home or in a partially enclosed space such as a garage or carport. To prevent harmful gasses from entering your home, keep generators outdoors, away from windows, vents, and doors.
We hope these indoor air quality facts have helped you understand how important it is to have good air in your home.
Air quality can never be improved in a day, but you can always begin at home to protect yourself and your family. Using a high quality air filter is one of the simplest ways to begin. It is recommended that you replace your air filter every three months.
Purchase quality air filters from Airzey, an indoor air quality store that offers premium products that encourage healthy living and increased productivity. You can feel the difference with its nanofiber technology and high capacity MERV 13 filter, the highest-rated air filter for home use.
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