How Is Indoor Air Pollution Affecting Your Health?
In recent years, indoor air pollution has become a major issue both in the private and public spheres. It is becoming a greater issue due to increased exposure to pesticides, harmful chemicals and more. Not many people know about this problem because it’s not talked about very much in the media.
What Is Indoor Air Pollution?
Indoor air pollution is a broad term defining the introduction of chemical, particulate or biological contaminants into your indoor environment. This can be caused by human activity, or by other events such as natural disasters or fires.
You may have heard of indoor air pollution from news reports about health problems among people living in a poorly ventilated building. Or you may have read about it in the context of smoking. But some of the most common sources and causes of indoor air pollution are less well-known.
Radon is an odourless, colourless, tasteless radioactive gas that can seep into your home through cracks in the walls or floors. It’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and it has a half-life of 3.8 days.
You can test your house for radon by buying a test kit at your local hardware store and placing it inside your house for up to three months. If you find out you have high levels of radon in your home, you’ll need to hire a professional to fix the problem—sealing cracks and adding fans or vents to draw out radon from under concrete floors are two ways this process can be done—but if low levels are detected, you can simply open a window on cold days or add ventilation to pull out the gas before it builds up too much.
The use of disposables in the kitchen is a double-edged sword. Disposable cutlery and plates cause less carbon build-up because they’re not being reused, but they also need to be replaced more often. Depending on how often you use them, these utensils could end up being a considerable source of indoor contamination, especially if they come into contact with moist foods or surfaces where mould can grow (including closets and bathrooms).
A better type of durable cutlery would be metal forks that are easy to clean and resistant to rust. They aren’t as sturdy as more expensive silverware, though, so if you have young children who’ll be eating with you consider investing in some plastic knives for their safety.
Pests like cockroaches, mice and rats, birds and certain insects can add to the problem of poor indoor air quality. They can contaminate food, cause asthma attacks, spread illness, damage property, and create a health risk for all who live in the home or building.
- Pests like cockroaches and rodents can trigger asthma
- Pests that live in your home or building can cause allergic reactions such as sneezing and watery eyes
- Cockroaches are a well-known trigger for asthma symptoms in children
- Rats and mice may also cause headaches, skin irritations (such as hives) and digestive problems
The best way to keep pests from affecting your health is to keep them out of your house! Maintain your kitchen by washing dishes regularly, storing open food containers in sealed plastic or glass jars (or refrigerate them), taking out the trash daily and keeping it contained outside the house until trash day. Don’t leave pet food exposed overnight; cover it up before you go to bed at night. By being alert about potential insect pests indoors—and knowing how they might be affecting your health—you’ll be able to enjoy a healthier home environment.
- Dust mites are microscopic animals that feed on the dead skin cells we shed. They live in bedding, curtains, upholstered furniture, and carpeting. They’re not dangerous — at least to most people — but their bodies and poop can be a trigger for asthma attacks or allergic reactions.
- Even if you don’t have allergies, all that dust floating around can make the air in your home feel stale and thick. You may not want to breathe it in — which is why you might consider opening windows frequently, even during the winter months.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless gas that can cause flu-like symptoms and even death. Sources of carbon monoxide include gas ranges, gas water heaters, gas furnaces, fireplaces, and wood stoves.
Since it is impossible to see or smell this deadly gas, it’s important to install a carbon monoxide detector and test it monthly. If the CO detector sounds an alarm or the digital display shows a reading greater than 30 parts per million (ppm), open windows and doors for ventilation immediately. Leave your home at once if you suspect CO poisoning because exposure can be fatal.
Particulate matter (PM) and second-hand smoke
Particulate matter (PM) is a type of air pollution that includes small bits of solids or liquids suspended in the air. Particulate matter from second-hand smoke contains thousands of chemicals, some of which are poisonous. If you have asthma, PM can be especially harmful to your lungs and make it more difficult to exercise or breathe normally.
In addition to the effects on lung health, PM has been associated with increased risks of heart attacks and strokes.
Indoor air pollution is a real problem, but you can take steps to improve the quality of your indoor air.
Many techniques can help reduce exposure to indoor air pollution and improve your health.
Hiring somebody to test radon levels in your home is the best way to know if you have a radon problem. You might not be able to see or smell radon, but it could be a problem in any home, new or old, well-sealed or drafty. Coming from the natural decay of uranium, radon, is found in nearly all soils. Generally, it moves up through the ground and into the air and then gets trapped inside homes where it can build up to high levels. People breathe in radon gas and during that process, some of the gas’s radioactive particles can get trapped inside their bodies. These particles eventually break down and give off small bursts of energy that damage cells, potentially leading to lung cancer over time.