Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Poor Indoor Air Quality
A recent article in Nature warns that we’re not getting enough air quality controls for indoor spaces. This is a major problem, because people spend most of their lives indoors, including the elderly and the sick. When indoor air is contaminated, symptoms can include headaches, eye irritation, fatigue, dry throat, nausea and sinus congestion. Even short-term exposure to contaminated air can cause serious health problems.
1. Increased Illnesses
People who spend a great deal of time indoors, especially those with chronic lung diseases, are at increased risk for air pollution-related illnesses. For instance, poor indoor air quality has been linked to a variety of symptoms including headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Biological contaminants such as dust, pollen, molds and bacteria thrive and spread rapidly in crowded, poorly ventilated areas. These pollutants may trigger allergic reactions, asthma, and respiratory infections that cause shortness of breath, sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, dizziness and lethargy. Chemical pollutants can also be a problem. These include toxic fumes from paints, strippers, solvents and fuels; cigarette smoke; organic vapors from cleaning products, aerosol sprays, hobby supplies, and other household chemicals; and pesticides.
2. Symptoms Of Asthma
Asthma is a long-term lung disease that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Symptoms may vary from person to person, but can usually be relieved with quick-relief medication. Asthma affects more than 25 million people in the United States, including many children. It can be life-threatening if left untreated. Doctors make a diagnosis of asthma based on a patient’s symptoms and breathing (pulmonary function) tests. They also check for other respiratory conditions, such as pneumonia. Breathing indoor air that is high in moisture and mold can make it harder for people with asthma to breathe. The humidity in your home should be less than 50 percent.
3. Chronic Illnesses
Poor indoor air quality can cause or contribute to lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In addition, air pollution may aggravate existing health conditions, such as respiratory infections, heart disease, strokes and cancer. It also increases the risk of death, especially among those who already have a health condition. Tobacco smoke is a common source of indoor air pollutants. It contains thousands of chemicals, including carbon monoxide, acrolein and formaldehyde. Other indoor air contaminants include lead dust, radon, mold and pet dander. Radon is one of the leading causes of lung cancer in the United States.
Allergies can affect anyone and are caused by a reaction between the immune system and substances in the environment that are harmless to most people. These are known as allergens and are found in dust mites, pets, pollen, insects, ticks, molds, foods and some medications. Allergy symptoms vary from mild to serious, with the most severe type being a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Examples include hay fever (allergic rhinitis), eczema, hives and asthma. The immune system recognizes the allergen as a threat, and creates specific antibodies to attack it. These antibodies attach themselves to mast cells in the body, and release chemicals known as histamine. These cause itching and swelling of the affected area, causing inflammation.
Molds are fungi that break down organic matter, such as dead leaves and wood. They do this by producing spores that float through the air. For mold to grow, these spores must land on moist surfaces. When this happens, they begin to thrive and grow into mold. Moist conditions indoors can be caused by many factors, such as a damp or poorly-ventilated building. These conditions can also lead to condensation that dries out a surface and allows mold to grow. The best way to reduce moisture is to keep your home well-ventilated. This can be done by using mechanical ventilation and opening windows or doors to let fresh air in.
Categorised in: Indoor Air Quality
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