Top Indoor Air Pollutants
When you hear the term ‘pollution’ you probably picture a cloud of smog over a bustling city. However, pollution can be anywhere, and it is not limited to the outdoors.
That’s right, pollution can affect the indoor air quality as well as the air outside. You and your loved ones can get very sick breathing in polluted indoor air. In some cases, the effects of poor indoor air quality can be seen right away. For example, Legionnaire’s disease was discovered because of contaminated indoor air. When a group of people who spend time in the same building together get sick but the cause of a disease is not known, it is called ‘sick building syndrome.’
In other instances, polluted indoor air can cause long-term illnesses such as respiratory diseases or even cancer. Sometimes the affected people will begin to feel better as soon as they are removed from the environment, but other times they will live with the effects of indoor air pollution forever.
There are several types of indoor air pollutants:
Carbon monoxide is difficult to detect because it has no odor, taste or color. Appliances in your home like refrigerators, heaters, furnaces, gas stoves, and space heaters can all emit CO. It is deadly, and a heavy leak could harm anyone in the building within minutes. You should have carbon monoxide detectors in your home, for starters. You should evacuate the building if you suspect a leak. Call 911 and go to the doctor immediately to get yourself checked out.
Radon is everywhere in nature, including rocks and soil. It, too, is odorless. Radon can seep in through your building’s foundation or through ground water wells. Radon is thought to be the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, so it is important to catch leaks quickly. You can test for radon yourself or have a contractor do it for you.
We know that secondhand smoke is bad for our health, but we rarely take it so far as considering it an indoor air pollutant. Non-smokers who breathe in exhaled cigarette smoke have a higher risk of developing lung cancer, and it can aggravate their asthma or other respiratory problems, especially in children. Not smoking inside is obviously the best way to prevent secondhand smoke from contaminating the inside air.
Asbestos is now known to be dangerous, but for many years, it was used as a reliable building material. Some homes still have harmful asbestos insulation within their walls or ceiling and floor tiles made of the substance. The first thing you should do if you have an older home is to have the asbestos building materials taken out.
Lead was once used in paint, gasoline, and water pipes but it is no longer considered safe because of its ability to impact every organ system. Children are especially sensitive to lead poisoning because their bodies absorb it more easily. Lead poisoning in children can hinder their physical and mental growth and development.
Mold grows where it is damp and warm. If you have had any sort of water damage, you should be on the lookout for signs of mold. Sometimes, however, it can grow in unseen places like air ducts or under the carpet. Exposure to mold can cause allergy-like symptoms, including runny nose, congestion, headaches and rashes. You can test for mold with an at-home kit, then have it removed by the proper professionals.
Pollen affects those with allergies, but if it is severe enough, it can even bother people with no known allergies. Exposure to pollen can be avoided indoors by taking your clothes off as soon as you come in from outdoor activities and showering as soon as possible as well. You should never hang clothes, towels or sheets outside to dry, since pollen can stick to them.
Household Products and Pesticides
A surprising number of household products can release pollutants into your home, and they aren’t all cleaning products. The list also includes air fresheners, laundry detergents, glue and paint, candles and personal care products, such as aerosol hair spray. Always use proper ventilation when using these products.
Pesticides can also be harmful to people and animals. They can make individuals very sick if not used properly and stored in a safe place. Even when used properly, the chemicals in pesticides make them extremely dangerous.