Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Are You Breathing in Polluted Air?

We often think that air pollution only occurs outdoors, but unfortunately, studies have repeatedly shown that the air inside our homes or offices can be many times more polluted than the air outside due to building materials, smoke, and consumer products. In fact, according to a 1987 study conducted by the EPA, indoor air pollution was ranked fourth in cancer risk among the top 13 environmental problems analyzed. Also, because buildings constructed after the 1970’s were built to be more air-tight and energy efficient, these indoor pollutants can build up at a much higher rate than outdoor levels.

Therefore, to educate the public on the effects of indoor air pollution, the California Air Resources Board has published information about the sources and potential health effects of indoor air pollutants in an attempt to educate the public. Here is a brief overview:

Pollutant: Tobacco smoke
Major Indoor Sources: Cigarettes, cigars, and pipes
Potential Health Effects: Respiratory irritation, bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease

Pollutant: Carbon monoxide
Major Indoor Sources: Unvented or malfunctioning gas appliances, wood stoves, and tobacco smoke
Potential Health Effects: Headache, nausea, impaired vision, and death at high concentrations

Pollutant: Formaldehyde
Major Indoor Sources: Pressed wood products, furnishings, wallpaper, and durable press fabrics
Potential Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; allergic reactions; cancer

Pollutant: Particles
Major Indoor Sources: Cigarettes, wood stoves, aerosol sprays, house dust
Potential Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; respiratory infections; bronchitis; lung cancer

Pollutant: Radon
Major Indoor Sources: Soil under buildings, construction materials, and groundwater
Potential Health Effects: Lung cancer

Pollutant: Biological agents (bacteria, viruses, fungi, animal dander, and mites)
Major Indoor Sources: House dust; pets; bedding; humidifiers and dehumidifiers; wet or moist structures; and furnishings
Potential Health Effects: Allergic reactions, asthma, eye, nose, and throat irritation; influenza; humidifier fever; and other infectious diseases

Of course, the above is just a partial list, but to decrease exposure to indoor air pollution, the Resources Board recommends preventing or minimizing the release of indoor pollutants in the first place. This involves using products safely, restricting smoking, using appliances properly, selecting building materials and furniture carefully, and providing adequate ventilation. In addition, using a quality air purifier with True HEPA filtration will also help eliminate up to 99.97% of large particles 0.3 microns or larger, such as dust, dander, and mold.

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