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How Indoor Pollution Can Affect Your Health

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This article is tailored for patients. Refer your patients to this article for them to learn more about their condition.

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Being exposed to harm as we go about our daily lives has been something natural for the longest of times. You never know when an unfortunate accident may befall you, and the world as a whole is struggling with environmental pollution. Especially in highly populated areas, breathing in smelly and contaminated air is unavoidable. Indoor Pollution

In this case, people seek shelter in their homes where the four walls protect them from the fumes of exhaust pipes and chimneys. However, it is a useless attempt. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports, the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outside.

As such, indoor air pollution can pose a severe health risk, especially since Americans spend, on average, around 90% of their time inside, as EPA further notes. While you can notice some effects of pollutants immediately, you might discover other much more severe problems after some years.

To manage the situation and control the pollutants, you first have to understand what they really are and how they affect your health. Below, you will find the necessary information to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Primary Causes of Indoor Air Problems

Sources that release gasses or particles into the air are the main reason for indoor pollution. Unfortunately, the concentration of some pollutants has increased in recent decades due to energy-efficient building construction combined with inadequate air ventilation. Since there is limited air exchange between indoors and outdoors, the pollutants are hardly diluted or carried out. Thus, a solution that was supposed to help households might be a reason why people are suffering from poor quality indoor air.

Furthermore, the experts from highlight the importance of keeping your garage door in good shape to insulate your house from outdoor factors, such as weather conditions or dust. While living in a rainy area, any crack might increase moisture levels indoors, damaging both the property and your well-being.

The key here is to maintain a sufficient air exchange rate. You need to provide natural ventilation by opening windows regularly. Additionally, you could invest in a mechanical ventilation system that will continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned outdoor air throughout the whole house.

Pollutants and Their Sources

As mentioned above, gasses and particles are the most common pollutants that decrease indoor air quality. Their sources might be mainly found inside your home, although some of them come from outside. Typical pollutants include:

  • Combustion byproducts, such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter. They are produced by tobacco products and appliances that burn fuels, including space heaters, stoves, furnaces, fireplaces, and water heaters.
  • Environmental tobacco smoke.
  • Biological agents, such as mold, pet dander, dust mites, and pollen.
  • Substances of natural origin. For example, radon is an outdoor pollutant that occurs in rocks and soil decay. It can enter buildings through cracks or gaps in structures.
  • Pesticides.
  • Lead was used for the production of paint. Though now lead-based paint is banned, it is still in many homes under layers of newer paint.
  • Asbestos is used for insulation.
  • Formaldehyde is widely used by industry to manufacture building materials and numerous household products.
  • Various volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They are found in cleaning and maintenance products, personal care products, and more.
  • Ozone is produced by some humidification devices.
  • Outdoor air pollution.

Indoor Air Pollution and Health

Bad indoor air quality may have serious health repercussions and even lead to death. As Our World in Data reports, 2.31 million (4.1%) global deaths were attributed to indoor pollution in 2019. The most vulnerable are children, senior citizens, and people suffering from chronic illnesses. EPA also quotes low-income populations, minorities, tribes, and indigenous people as those most impacted by indoor pollutants.

Some reactions to air pollutants, such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat or headaches, fatigue, and dizziness, might appear shortly after exposure. They are usually short-lived and may be treated by simply reducing exposure to the source. There might be a leak of carbon monoxide in extreme cases — a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas that can be lethal in highly concentrated levels.

Whether you have an immediate reaction to the pollution depends on several factors, including your age, medical conditions, or personal sensitivity. For example, an asthmatic person might have a quick reaction — dust mites, mold, particulate matter, or pet dander will more than likely aggravate their symptoms. Moreover, if you are repeatedly exposed to certain pollutants for extended periods, you might become sensitized.

Other well-known health effects of indoor air pollution include respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer. Some of them have been linked to specific air pollutants:

  • Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, causing around 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.
  • Secondhand smoke is right behind radon. It may also contribute to heart disease and lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Ozone can damage the lungs and is likely to be one of many causes of asthma development.
  • Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide can harm the lungs and lead to chronic bronchitis.
  • Exposure to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. However, even at small levels, lead may be damaging as it accumulates in the body and is released very slowly.

Few of those conditions are developed over the years of continuous exposure to harmful factors. They slowly consume the body and may lead to death, so you must monitor your air quality and try to improve it even if you do not experience any symptoms.

How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Family?

As you can see, indoor air pollution can be hazardous for health and life, and as said before, you need to control its levels regularly. However, no one-in-all device will check all the possible pollutants. That’s why you might have to resort to several solutions, including purchasing an indoor air quality monitor, installing carbon monoxide alarms, conducting a radon test, and testing for mold in the air.

Furthermore, you need to monitor yourself for any symptoms you might be experiencing after exposure to indoor pollution. These include worsening asthma, allergies, and other respiratory problems. Once you notice that something is wrong, try to identify the cause and avoid a similar situation in the future.

Finally, you should always maintain cleanliness in your home. Clutter gathers dust, creating a perfect environment for dust mites and other bacteria that might aggravate asthma or allergies.

The Bottom Line

The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to take control of your health. Therefore, you should always be aware of what is happening around you and at home. By being proactive, you can always avoid potential health risks and dangers. It is the only way to enjoy a long and healthy life.

Remember to frequently check the air quality in your home and avoid introducing any pollutants into the house environment. Moreover, consider investing in gadgets such as indoor air quality monitors and carbon monoxide detectors to keep you and your family safe. This way, you can make your home a much safer place to live in.

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