You can’t control the pollution when you step outside, but you can definitely have some control over the quality of the air you breathe inside your home and office.
North Americans spend an average of 90 percent of their time inside, but their indoor environments may be full of toxic substances in the air they breathe. Research shows that exposure to indoor contaminants can be 2 to 100 times higher than the contaminants outside. You might be thinking that your house is clean and not polluted, but in all likelihood it is. This, of course, is hazardous to your health.
Chemicals, Natural Allergens and Pollutants Hiding in Your Home
- Construction materials like lead, formaldehyde and paint;
- Solvents, insecticides, herbicides and disinfectants from household products you use regularly;
- Dust, dander and chemicals on carpets, clothes and bedding;
- Food waste, cooking odors and vapors in the kitchen;
- Pollen, mould, hair and skin in air vents;
- Sewer gas and mildew in the bathroom.
All these contaminants can have an effect on your health if present in high enough quantities and, if you are exposed to them day in and day out.
Major Health Problems Related to Indoor Air Pollution
- Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) – This may take time to notice because the symptoms resolve themselves once you leave the area and come back upon return. SBS can involve health problems with multiple systems of the body including headaches, nausea, eye, throat and skin irritation;
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivity – This is when your body negatively responds to low-levels of chemicals that are commonly found in indoor environments. Symptoms are similar to SBS and commonly fade when you leave the environment that’s making you ill, although for some people, symptoms persist outside the environment;
- Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis – This is caused by bacteria, fungi and moulds that are contaminating home humidifiers, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The symptoms are ?u-like and include chills, fever, fatigue, cough, chest tightness and shortness of breath. This is usually reversible when regular exposure to the harmful environment is halted.
Possible Symptoms of SBS, MCS and general indoor air pollution:
- Eye and throat irritation
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Skin irritation
Tips for Breathing Better Indoor Air
- Use a high-efficiency filter in your central heating/cooling system with at least a 60 percent efficiency grade. This will help remove harmful airborne particles;
- Minimize the humidity in your home by letting more outdoor air in and ensuring sufficient ventilation. By doing this, you’ll prevent moisture from building up on walls and windows, reducing the possible growth of bacteria. You may need to buy a ceiling fan to optimize air-?ow in highly humid areas;
- Measure the humidity in your home by using a hygrometer – you can get an inexpensive one at a hardware store. The relative humidity in your home should be below 50 percent in the summer and below 30 percent in the winter. If your home doesn’t achieve this on its own you should invest in a dehumidifier
- Repair leaky roofs, walls and foundations;
- Clean frequently and thoroughly to prevent dust and mould build up;
- Regularly clean and disinfect filters of furnaces, humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air conditioners;
- Keep aerosol product use to a minimum
- Restrict smoking to outdoor areas or, better yet, just quit!
- Use exhaust fans that vent to the outdoors when cooking;
- When purchasing building materials and furniture, choose products that do not emit formaldehyde – ask a sales person/manufacturer when in doubt;
- Carefully follow safety instructions on consumer products such as cleaning agents, paints and glues
- Consider using chemical-free cleaning products. There are several on the market now (good for you and the environment!);
- Consider using micro-fiber cleaning cloths with embedded silver. This technology allows you to clean your house with no cleaning agents;
- Limit the use of candles and incense indoors as they can elevate indoor particle levels;
- Use plenty of ventilation.
Did you enjoy reading this week’s blog? Pick up a copy of my book, Wellness on the Go for more information on the health and wellness topics you want to know more about!