What Are We Breathing?
Air pollution is a common contributor to lung disease. Diseases such as asthma, respiratory tract infections and lung cancer claim over a quarter of a million lives every year. While some forms of air pollution are uncontrollable. The indoor air quality of your home or office is something that can be controlled. Poor indoor air quality can cause serious chronic respiratory diseases in some cases, however, more common problems are often chronic sinusitis, headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue. In addition, those already with respiratory problems are placed at even greater risk. There are a number of different sources of indoor air pollution, some more harmful than others, but all can be controlled to a certain extent.
Biological contributors to poor air quality include toxic mold, bacteria, mildew, viruses, animal dander, dust mites and pollen. These pollutants can originate from a variety of sources. Pollen produced by plants; viruses and bacteria can be carried and transmitted by people, animals, soil and plant debris; and any household pets are a source of dander. Any sort of ventilation system, whether it be heating or cooling, can be a breeding ground for biological pollutants if air ducts and air filters are not cleaned properly; effectively spreading them through your home or office.
Some sources of poor indoor air quality may remain hidden until tested. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas most commonly produced from uranium decay in soil and rock. Radon is colorless and odorless gas that can leak into homes through dirt floors, exposed rock, cracks in the foundation floor and walls, drains, wells and any other opening to subterranean soil. Radon is estimated to be the second leading cause of lung cancer and approximately 1 out of 15 homes in the United States have radon levels above the EPA’s recommended action level.
ENVIRONMENTAL TOBACCO SMOKE (ETS)
Environmental tobacco smoke, also known as “second hand smoke” or “passive smoking”, is a combination of smoke directly from the end of a cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. ETS is known to contain over 4,000 chemicals, 200 of which are poisonous and approximately 40 which are carcinogenic. ETS is one of the few causes of poor indoor air quality that is completely preventable.
Formaldehyde is a chemical used widely in the building construction industry. In homes and offices, the most common source is formaldehyde-based adhesives used in carpets, upholstery, particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard. It is a colorless yet pungent-smelling gas that can cause eye, nose and throat irritation as well as headaches, dizziness and nausea.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber commonly used in older building construction materials. It was used mainly for its durability as an insulator and fire-retardant. Asbestos is most commonly found in older homes in furnace insulating materials, shingles, pipe insulation, and floor/ceiling tiles. Asbestos is dangerous when microscopic particles become suspended in air. Asbestos particles become airborne when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed through remodeling activities such as sanding and cutting. Improperly removing such materials also leads to increased airborne concentrations. High concentrations of airborne asbestos particles can cause serious health risks such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Symptoms of these diseases do not become apparent until years after initial exposure.
CARBON MONOXIDE/NITROGEN DIOXIDE
Home appliances and heating systems that use natural gas, fuel or wood can all contribute to poor indoor air quality. Any type of combustion appliance that is misused, improperly installed and maintained, or inadequately ventilated can cause high levels of exhaust byproducts including Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). Carbon Monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that interferes with the body’s oxygen delivery systems. High concentrations can cause unconsciousness and even death, while low concentrations lead to headaches, nausea, disorientation and fatigue. Nitrogen Dioxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can cause irritation to mucus membranes such as eyes, nose and throat. High exposure can lead to shortness of breath and prolonged exposure can lead to damaged respiratory tissue as well as chronic bronchitis.
Categorized in: Indoor Air Quality