The phrase “air pollution” usually makes you think about industrial smokestacks and billowing plumes rising into the sky. While outdoor air quality has gotten a lot of press, the poorest air quality you’ll ever breathe could be right in your own living room. Below we will go over 5 facts about air pollution that everyone should be aware of, as well as how to protect children, the elderly, and everyone else from the substantial health risks of indoor air pollution.
- IAQ is ranked in the top 5 of all health risks
IAQ is a top-five environmental concern to public health, according to EPA. Indoor air pollution levels were frequently 2 to 5 times higher than outside pollution levels, according to EPA research. There are a variety of reasons for this, including inadequate ventilation, the use of hazardous candles, air fresheners, cleaning and healthcare products.
- Your furniture could be the source of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Toxic PBDEs, which are chemicals that are used as flame retardants, were commonly used in furniture purchased before 2006. These flame retardants have the potential to release toxins into the environment. While PBDEs were banned in 2006 there are still flame retardants that are still used today. These newer flame retardant chemicals appear to pose the same risks as chlorinated tris (a proven carcinogen prohibited from children’s pajamas in 1977).
- What’s in your air freshener?
Most air fresheners, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), contain phthalates, which are toxic chemicals that disrupt hormone function in babies and children, interfere with reproductive development, and aggravate respiratory illnesses like asthma. Additionally, a recent study found that the terpenes released by air fresheners interact with ozone to form compounds like formaldehyde and acetone at concentrations that can cause respiratory sensitivity and airflow limitation.
- Indoor Air Contaminants Damage More than Respiratory Health
VOCs, phthalates, PBDEs, mold, pollen, pet dander, radon, and other indoor air contaminants pose serious health risks. Many of these substances fall under the category of fine or ultrafine particulate matter. These particles are easily inhaled and can enter the bloodstream, with some even passing through the blood-brain barrier. Symptoms include dry eyes, headaches, nasal congestion, lethargy, and even nausea. Exposure to particulates has been related to health concerns such as asthma, lung infections, and possibly lung cancer. After inhaling ultrafine particles, adults have an increased incidence of stroke and depression, while children have demonstrated increased systemic inflammation, immunological dysfunction, and brain distress.
- Wood smoke can slow down Immune Response
There’s no doubt that sitting around a bonfire is both relaxing and welcoming, but we suggest you do so only on special occasions. According to studies, inhaling wood smoke on a frequent basis reduces immunological activity and function. People who rely upon burning wood for cooking and heating have the greatest exposure to wood smoke. Anyone who burns wood indoors should be aware of the potential health dangers.
The bottom line
Because chemicals, mold, dust, and even industrially manufactured compounds like phthalates, PBDEs, and other VOCs can be found in the interiors of our homes and offices, it’s important that we are attentive about purifying the air where you live and work. Here are a few steps that you can take to make sure that you and your family are protected:
- Improve the airflow and ventilation in your home.
- Consider investing in a high-quality air cleaner.
- Manage particulate matter by dusting frequently using a moist cloth.
- Remove sources of indoor air pollution (i.e., buy furniture that has not been treated with chemicals, avoid air fresheners)
- Make sure you go outside on a daily basis – fresh air and sunlight can make a tremendous difference in your health!