Monday, December 16, 2013

A Dangerous Silence: Indoor Air Pollution

It can be found in the home, at work or anywhere there is a door. Indoor air pollution can show up in any structure large or small. Some pollutants are not detectable by smell, sight, or sound, but some are noticed immediately when entering a room. Though adequate ventilation can eliminate a few types of pollution sources that release gas or other emissions, some require more intensive remedies.

Pollution can cause health problems with potential for respiratory diseases and some cancers. There are many sources that produce these contaminants; some are built into the rooms with products containing lead, asbestos and harmful chemicals.

Radon is a radioactive gas resulting from radium found in rocks and building materials. When a building is constructed over a site with a radon source, the lower floors can accumulate dangerous amounts of radon gas that is responsible for diseases such as lung cancer.

Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas produced from poorly ventilated heating and cooking systems, exhausts from a running vehicle, and tobacco smoking. Breathing large amounts of this gas will lead to death.

Mould forms from moisture buildup underneath buildings or within walls due to plumbing leaks, condensation and excessive humidity. It is a major contributor to asthma attacks. Dander from animals and pollen from plants release allergens into the air.

Asbestos fibers are found in older structures, and when disturbed, are dispersed as airborne microscopic material that can be inhaled. The long-term effects produce lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Household products and pesticides are problems when handled carelessly. The emissions from these products usually cause short-term illnesses, but abuse can also be deadly. Organic solvents are found in paints, wax, cleaning liquids, and fuel. Their emissions have been found to cause nausea, headaches, and breathing problems.

A disease that has garnered a great deal of media attention in the past 20 years is Legionellosis or Legionnaire's Disease. It is a waterborne bacterium called Legionella which is found growing in warm water. Faulty evaporation cooling systems on commercial buildings were the source of large outbreaks of the disease when first discovered. Legionella is a parasite of protozoans, and conditions favorable for both to grow will produce the sometimes deadly disease. It has a natural resistance to most chemical treatments but can be eliminated with very hot water.

Air pollution found indoors may not be completely eliminated, but its intensity and ability to do harm can be greatly reduced, if indoor air is systematically replaced with outdoor air. Heating and air conditioning and adequate ventilation procedures effectively turns over the air within an enclosed area. Pollutants are trapped in air filters in these systems, not allowing them to re-admit into the area.

Better building products help to reduce implanted pollutants into a space. Rugs and carpets require a weekly if not daily vacuuming and cleaning to get out trapped dirt, mites, allergens, and bacteria. Large carpeted areas with heavy traffic should be professionally cleaned especially when children and elderly people come into contact. Their immune systems make them susceptible to illness and health problems related to indoor air pollution.

Cleaning and sanitizing open surfaces to keep dust under control, will also help stop the contamination of air quality.

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