Originally published March 5 2009
Indoor Air Pollution is a Serious Threat to Your Health
by Marianne Leigh
(NaturalNews) Indoor air pollution is arguably one of the most overlooked threats to human health, particularly affecting young children who spend an estimated 80% of their time indoors. Studies released in the past few years demonstrate clearly that poor indoor air quality not only increases asthma symptoms but can also be responsible for headaches, fatigue, nausea, allergic reactions, hormone imbalances and liver, kidney or central nervous system damage. Evidence has even been found that it causes cancer.
Most of us realize that outdoor air pollution is potentially dangerous. City smog, automobile exhaust and even more potent industrial wastes, being recognized health hazards, are systematically measured and documented. But a recent study by Johns Hopkins` Bloomberg School of Public Health found that in many cases, the level of indoor pollution was twice that of outdoor (other studies have claimed as much as 5 times higher) and that the presence of these elevated levels of pollution significantly increased asthma symptoms in the children being studied. These findings are all the more alarming paired with the fact that no regulations currently exist for indoor air quality, not even in schools or day care facilities!
Tufts University lecturer, Dr. Rebecca Altman, published another study in December of 2008 pointing out several of the most troubling aspects of this health threat. First, most people remain completely unaware of this lurking problem. And second, reducing people`s exposure is notoriously difficult because one major source usually can`t be isolated. Indoor air pollution can come from hundreds and even thousands of sources that have become so ingrained in our everyday lives; we no longer question them. They can include:
* Household cleaning products,
* Chemical pesticides,
* Chlorine from ordinary tap water (chloramines and Trihalomethanes (THMs) are formed when chlorine combines with organic substances like skin, hair, or bacteria (etc.) during swimming or showering),
* Synthetic fragrances (contain phthalates),
* Dry cleaned clothes (dry cleaning uses perchloroethylene which is carcinogenic),
* Secondhand smoke (contains 200 known poisons and 43 carcinogens),
* Biological Pollutants (including mold, bacteria, viruses, pollen, dust mites and animal dander),
* Carpets and upholstery (bonding agents containing formaldehyde),
* Building and remodeling materials (including paint, lacquer, glue, particle board and plywood),
* Office machines and materials (including copiers, printers (ink), correction fluid, graphics and craft materials and photographic solutions),
* Radon gas (a carcinogen responsible for more than 20,000 deaths a year).
The good news, if indeed any can be found, is that indoor air pollution is infinitely more controllable than outdoor air pollution. There are many ways to reduce and even eliminate these pollutants from your home. With careful cooperation from educators and businesses, they can also be reduced at school and in the workplace.
An initial level of defense can include an air purifier or filter. Particularly useful against large particulate matter, they are recognized by leading health authorities (The American Lung Association, The Mayo Clinic, The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and the British Allergy Foundation) as an effective means of controlling asthma symptoms. Proper ventilation of interior spaces is an equally important step towards increasing air quality.
Additionally, there are myriad ways to avoid even introducing toxins to your interior. For city dwellers, for example, installing a water filtration system not only increases the overall quality of your water but also eliminates chlorine and chlorinated gases from the air inside your home. Other measures include switching to natural cleaning products and cosmetics and keeping pesticide use to a minimum.
Biological pollutants can be minimized through regular cleaning and controlling moisture in areas like basements and bathrooms. You may also want to assess the efficiency of your vacuum`s filter system. Use of high-efficiency small particle filters in vacuums and air purifiers has been shown to significantly reduce interior particulate pollution and subsequently asthma and allergy symptoms.
Finally, it can be tempting, certainly these days, to save money by purchasing cheaper products when decorating, improving or building a home. But consider the health risks associated with toxin-releasing particleboard furniture or synthetic fibers, for example. And suddenly 'green' building materials or the more expensive solid wood furniture can become more appealing.
In the end, while all of these methods can work together to create a healthier interior environment and better overall health for yourself and family members, the real bonus is that many are equally beneficial to the planet. Altering your purchasing habits when buying home furnishings, cleaners, pesticides or cosmetics will avoid introducing harmful chemicals into your home and into the environment. But you can also feel satisfied that each purchase of an alternative product strengthens the market share of environmentally responsible products and businesses, creating a self-propagating system of increasing environmental health.
Indoor Air Pollution Increases Asthma Symptoms (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health)
Pollution at Home Often Lurks Unrecognized (12/26/2008, Reuters Health) by Amy Norton
Air Purifiers and Air Filters Can Help the Health of Allergy and Asthmas Sufferers (S. A. Smith)
Indoor Air Pollution Fact Sheet (08/1999, American Lung Association)
An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (Environmental Protection Agency)
About the authorMarianne Leigh is a writer deeply concerned with environmental and natural health issues.
She is currently creating a local food blog for her community as a means of provoking discussions about food, natural health and local sustainable agriculture.
You may contact her for further details on this project.
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