Odorless and colorless toxic gases may be poisoning the very air you are breathing now. Read on to find out what deadly air pollutants may be present in your home, office and school. When it comes to air pollution, most people would associate it with ‘dirty air’ that exists outside the boundary of their home, school or office building.
But do you know that the air in your room, classroom or work space can be up to two times dirtier than the air outside? As most of us spend majority of our time indoors, it’s high time for you to be aware of the hidden airborne dangers that may be present in your environment.
Here’s a list of common household items which you have never even begin to suspect that might be polluting the air you are breathing:
Usual Causes of Indoor Air Pollution
1. Dust, which can trigger respiratory allergies in people who are sensitive to them.
2. Insecticides, herbicides and pesticide. Vapors of agricultural chemicals contain toxic substances such as arsenic that are known to disrupt the endocrine system and lead to cancerous growth.
3. Chlorine by-products like chloramines and trihalomethanes which are formed when chlorine reacts with organic matter like skin, hair, bacteria and etc. Inhaling these chemicals can irritate and cause damages to the respiratory system.
4. Household cleaning chemicals, paints and solvents. These products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can trigger sick building syndrome such as headaches, skin and throat irritation when people are exposed to them on a regular basis.
5. Synthetic fragrances, perfumes and deodorizers. Substances used in fragrances, perfumes and deodorizers are largely unregulated and are not monitored by the government. Some of the highly volatile and semi-volatile chemicals used have been found to be toxic and are capable of causing skin irritation, allergic reaction, cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and reproductive disorders.
6. Dry cleaned clothes which contains trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, which are highly toxic substances that are known to cause cancer.
7. Secondhand tobacco smoke which contains 200 known poisons and 43 carcinogens.
8. Biological pollutants, including mold, bacteria, viruses, pollen, and dust mites that could diseases, trigger hay fever or induce asthma in adults and children.
9. Pet dander. Hairs and dried skins from animals can also be sources of respiratory irritants.
10. Carpets and upholstery that use formaldehyde as permanent adhesive. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. It is classified as a known human carcinogen by the World Health Organization.
11. Volatile organic gases released by building and remodeling materials, such as paint, lacquer, glue and plywood. Toxic volatile organic compounds can be emitted by building materials for as long as a few years after installation.
12. Fumes from paraffin wax candles. A study done by the South Carolina State University found that candles made of paraffin wax release toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene that can quickly build up to unhealthy level in enclosed areas.
13. Minute particles and gases from office machines and stationery. Copiers, laser printers, correction fluid, graphics and craft materials and others can also be a source of ultra-fine particles and VOCs that can penetrate deep into the lungs.
14. Radon gas from kitchen counter top, attic and basement. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America according to the US National Cancer Institute.
15. Combustion pollutants. These are gases or particles that are emitted by unvented or poorly vented fuel-burning appliances such as fireplace, heater, wood or gas stove, water heater and dryer. Some of the hazardous gases that may be produced include nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.
How to Reduce Air Pollution in Your Home
Fortunately, indoor air pollution is much more manageable than the air outside your home. Here are some simple steps you can do to cut down on your exposure to air pollutants that could trigger averse health effects:
1. Keep your environment clean. Cleaning regularly with a vacuum cleaner and wiping dusty surfaces with a damp cloth are good ways to keep your environment clean and free of allergens. If you’re allergic to dust mites, weekly washing of bedsheets, pillow cases and blankets are also necessary to keep levels of the allergen low.
2. Replace air polluting items with safer products, or if you can’t, reduce the amount and frequency of use. For instance, instead of using synthetic cleaning agents and fragrances, replace them with natural alternatives such as diluted essential oils. If you use herbicides or pesticides on your plants, look for natural pest control products that are less harmful and will biodegrade much more quickly such as neem oil.
3. Ventilate your indoor space, including the kitchen, attic and basement, and let fresh air circulates freely and frequently.
4. Use an air purifier or air filter. Despite taking the measures above, air contaminants and allergens may still be introduced into your living environment by wind, breeze, pets, humans and equipments. That’s when the use of an in home air purifier can be useful to reduce the levels of air pollutants in enclosed spaces. If you can help it, install an air filter in every room to improve air-cleaning efficiency.
5. Install a whole house water filtration system. A whole-house water filtration system doesn’t just improve the quality of your drinking water, it will also cut your exposure to chlorine gases and vapors of their by-products which may be released during shower and washing.
6. Keep humidity under control. Excessive moisture in the air encourages the growth of biological pollutants, like mold, mildew and fungus, in areas like basements and bathrooms that could trigger allergies.
7. Use a vacuum cleaner with an efficient filter. Using a vacuum cleaner that comes with a high-efficiency small particle filters has been shown to significantly reduce interior particulate pollution and subsequently, asthma and allergy symptoms.
8. Replace toxin-releasing furniture or interior deco materials if you’re refurbishing your home or office. While it is tempting to buy cheaper products to save costs, think of the long-term costs that you and other occupants may be paying ten years down the road.