Emily Walsh, Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, recently shared her knowledge with us here at [1THING] in a great feature article for Healthy Lung Month. She has some interesting information about indoor air pollution and offers ways to improve the air quality in your home and office, which can also improve your health. Check out what she recommends:
Though it’s what most are aware of, outdoor land and air pollution like that from exhaust and industrial waste are not the only factors impacting the health of the environment, which in turn affects the health of our bodies. Indoor air quality is composed of the number, or lack-thereof, of pollutants, both natural and man-made, that contaminate the air of homes, workplaces, and other enclosed buildings. Americans spend on average 20 hours per day indoors where they are inhaling oftentimes stale, unfiltered air, so it is essential that those spaces are just as clean and pure as we hope and expect our outside air to be.
Indoor air pollution can lead to multiple health issues from simple eye, nose, and throat irritation, to pneumonia, cancer, and even death, dependent on what one is exposed to. Mold growth, for instance, can cause respiratory issues and enhance the effects of asthma or COPD for those who already suffer through those afflictions. Meanwhile something seemingly minor like cooking and heating the home with solid fuels (wood, charcoal, peat, pellets, etc.) is attributed to 4.3 millions premature deaths each year. Identifying recurring symptoms like dizziness or headaches while in your home or place of work is the first step to combating and preventing a serious health hazard. However, some illnesses like mesothelioma, caused by asbestos exposure, don’t develop noticeable symptoms for years, so taking steps to improve air quality is recommended no matter the current state of your health.
Often produced from what is brought into the home, pollutants come in the form of particulate matter, toxins and chemicals. Ultimately, improving indoor air quality comes down to source control, and improving or installing a ventilation system. Sources like dust collecting in a long pile carpet, pollen from flowering indoor plants, second-hand smoke, or an unnatural ingredient in an air freshener have simple fixes of cleaning more often or removing certain products from the building. Other sources, however, are more complicated and may require renovation. Mold is usually caused by water damage or a leak; asbestos is found in old homes where products containing the mineral are deteriorating; and radon is most often a result of a leak in the basement and requires a pipe to reroute the gas away from the home. If symptoms persist even after finding what you believe is the source, natural ventilation like opening windows, or a more costly approach like an HVAC system may be necessary.
We only have one body and one life, so take notice of any changes to your health when you move into a new home or office, or start frequenting a new building. Indoor environment is equally as important as outdoor when it comes to health.