1Why is Indoor Air Quality an issue?
According to the National Safety Council, people, on average, spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. Of that 90 percent, 65 is spent at home and to make matters worse, those who are most susceptible to indoor air pollution are the ones who are home the most: children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses. Children breathe in 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults do. EPA studies have found that pollutant levels inside can be two to five times higher than outdoors. After some activities, indoor air pollution levels can be 100 times higher than outdoors.
2Can the air inside our homes be bad for us?
In an attempt to conserve energy, buildings are increasingly being constructed more and more airtight. Specific to homes, storm windows, insulation, caulking and weather stripping cracks are a few ways we have managed to keep air, hot or cold, from escaping. Unfortunately when air is trapped in a building, pollutants are also trapped.
3What are the sources of pollutants?
According to the National Safety Council, there are many sources of pollutants in the home. Obvious ones are chemicals, cleaning products, and pesticides. Less obvious are pollutants caused by such simple tasks as cooking, bathing, or heating the home. Fortunately, there are easy steps that everyone can take to reduce the potential for indoor air pollution and to improve the quality of the air they breathe.
4What are the different types of pollutants?
There are three different types of indoor air pollutants. Particulates: dust, pollen, dust mites, animal dander, carpet fibers, and lint. Micro-organisms: mold, influenza, fungi, viruses, bacteria, and germs. Toxins (gases): benzene chemical vapors, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, paint, pesticides, carpet fumes, pet odors, ozone, cleaning vapors, and smoke.
5How to know if the air inside your home is dangerous to your health?
According to the National Safety Council, it is difficult to determine which pollutant or pollutants are the sources of a person’s ill health, or even if indoor air pollution is the problem. Many indoor air pollutants cannot be detected by our senses (e.g., smell) and the symptoms they produce can be vague and sometimes similar, making it hard to attribute them to a specific cause. Some symptoms may not show up until years later, making it even harder to discover the cause. Common symptoms of exposure to indoor air pollutants include: headaches, tiredness, dizziness, nausea, itchy nose, and scratchy throat. More serious effects are asthma and other breathing disorders and cancer.
6How does this affect children?
According to the National Safety Council, children may be more susceptible to environmental exposures than adults and, because of their developing systems, particularly vulnerable to their effects. Asthma is a case in point. About 4.2 million children in the United States, and more than 12.4 million people total, are affected by asthma each year. A recent study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine concluded that 65 percent of asthma cases among elementary school-age children could be prevented by controlling exposure to indoor allergens and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). By controlling biological contaminants (e.g., dust mites and cat allergens), asthma cases could be reduced by 55 to 60 percent.