Studies show that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in the most industrialized cities! Other research indicates that the elderly and young children may spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, indoor air safety is a concern for each of us to consider, taking necessary precautions in protecting ourselves against this hazard. Individual sources may not pose a significant health risk, but cumulative effects are worth noting. If too little fresh air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that pose serious health risks.
- Combustion sources – oil, gas, kerosene, wood
- Deteriorating substances – insulation, carpet, cabinetry, furniture
- Toxic household supplies – cleaning, maintenance, personal care, hobbies
- Devices – heating, cooling, humidification
- Infiltration – radon, pesticides, herbicides, air pollution
- Biological – bacteria, mold, mildew, animal dander and urine, dust mites
By controlling the humidity level in a home, the growth of biological sources can be minimized. A humidity level of 30-50 percent is generally recommended. Wet surfaces are a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Having indoor pets is considered a source of pollutants through their dander, shedding of hair, urine, and feces. Maintaining cleanliness and grooming reduces exposure.
Proper maintenance of appliances plays a role in emission levels. An improperly adjusted gas stove emits more carbon monoxide than one adjusted properly. A malfunctioning or unvented furnace poses a considerable health hazard. Some intermittent activities such as painting, varnishing, using solvents with a hobby, and redecorating must be considered as high pollutant sources since fumes may linger in the air for long periods of time after these activities. Repeated exposure to high pollutant levels dramatically increases health risk.
Symptoms of Indoor Air Pollution
Nitrogen dioxide is emitted during the combustion process. Burning gas in the home contributes to this pollution, along with burning wood. Concentrated doses cause irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. A persistent cough, headache, shortness of breath, or chest tightness may also be triggered by nitrogen dioxide exposure.
Carbon monoxide interferes with oxygen absorption in the body. A very high exposure could cause unconsciousness and death. Lower concentrations may cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, confusion, weakness, and disorientation. Carbon monoxide exposure is a factor to consider if you are feeling fatigued without a known cause. Having a carbon monoxide detector in the home is a great safety precaution.
Methylene chloride is found in paint strippers, spray paints, adhesive removers, etc. It converts to carbon monoxide in the body and can cause symptoms similar to carbon monoxide exposure. Use products containing this chemical (and similar chemicals) outdoors.
Formaldehyde is a pungent gas that can cause watery eyes, a burning sensation in the eyes and throat, nausea and even difficult in breathing. It may even be a trigger for asthma. Sources include building materials and household products. It is used in permanent-press clothing and drapes, in glues and adhesives, and as a preservative in coating products. Pressed wood products: particleboard, plywood paneling, and fiberboard all contain formaldehyde. Before purchasing pressed wood products, ask about formaldehyde content.
Pesticides used inside or around a home pose a significant health risk. They are sold as sprays, foggers, liquids, sticks, powders, balls, and crystals. Products used on lawns or in gardens may be tracked inside the home.
“According to a recent survey, 75 percent of U.S. households used at least one pesticide product indoors during the past year. Products used most often are insecticides and disinfectants. Another study suggests that 80 percent of most people’s exposure to pesticides occurs indoors and that measurable levels of up to a dozen pesticides have been found in the air inside homes.”1
Exposure to pesticides may result in irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. Longer exposure may lead to muscle weakness, tingling sensation, headaches, and dizziness. High exposure to some pesticides damages the endocrine and central nervous system, liver and kidneys. Exposure increases the risk of cancer. For safety, use nonchemical methods of pest control. Essential oils have known insect repellent properties: citronella, peppermint, thyme, lavender, lemongrass, and eucalyptus.
Household toxic chemical exposure symptoms vary greatly depending on the level of exposure and length of time exposed. A high level of exposure may contribute to eye irritation, visual impairment, respiratory tract irritation and memory impairment. See the posts, “Personal Care Product Safety,” and “Endocrine Disruptor Chemical Safety,” for lists of toxic household chemicals. Keeping toxic chemicals out of the home, stored in a sealed container reduces outgassing exposure. Always use safety precautions while using any toxic chemicals.
“Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable.”2
Research indicates people on average spend 90% of their time indoors. Read the Environmental Protection Agency Report entitled “Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality” outlining numerous air quality topics.
Solutions for Poor Indoor Air Quality
There are solutions for poor indoor air quality. You may eliminate or control the sources of pollution, increase ventilation, or purchase an air purification system. While using hazardous materials, pay particular attention to increase ventilation. It is highly recommend to complete all indoor remodeling in the early summer when the entire house may be completely ventilated during the project, and for the entire summer after the project. Using toxic chemicals in a closed environment may lead to serious health conditions and might not be recognized as a causative factor. During the winter months when your home is closed up tight, an air purification device is a necessity for reducing toxic air pollution. Increasing your air quality increases your level of health and vitality!
Negative Ion Air Purification
Negative ion air purifiers add negative ions to the air by using high voltage wires to add an extra electron to air molecules and then disperse them into the room with a fan. These negatively charged ions attach themselves to contaminants, which are generally positively charged. The airborne particles then drop out of the air. Don’t forget, “negative” ions are beneficial for the human body while “positive” ions are harmful ones. It is easy to get these two reversed in the mind.
Benefits of Negative Ions
- Vitalize cell metabolism
- Stimulate immune function
- Purify the blood
- Neutralize free radicals
- Promote deep sleep
- Balance nervous system
- Increase pH
Negative ions are abundant after a thunderstorm, giving the fresh clean smell of the air. Waterfalls,beaches, and large mature forests also have high air concentrations of negative ions.
Positively charged ions are in high concentrations indoors from the combination of electromagnetic fields, fluorescent lighting, carpeting, metal, plastic, and air pollution. After the house has been closed up, open a window and smell how much better fresh air is. Positive ions smell thick and stuffy while negative ions smell light and airy.
Highly Recommended Quality Negative Ion Air Purifier
Negative ion air purifiers offer quick relief from allergies, chronic colds, flu, or other upper respiratory conditions, without drugs or medication. If there are musty smells, odors, or mold in the house, try Alpine Air, a unique hi-tech negative ion generator, for a 30 day risk-free trial. Click here.
Not Recommended Air Purification Systems
1. Strong ozone generators are toxic when overused, which is very easy to do. Read about the toxicity of ozone here. This Environmental Protection Agency article also covers the topic of ozone generators stating safety cautions.
2. Hepa filtration works well when air is moving through a furnace duct, but not well in cleaning the circulating air in a home. If the air does not go through the filter, it remains uncleaned. Large units are cumbersome, taking up a lot of space. To be truly efficient, the fan speed must be kept very high, which may be noisy.
3. Activated carbon filters have a low efficiency level in removing allergens and airborne particles and have limitations in eliminating contaminants that are far away and not forced through the filter.
4. UV light technology is not effective alone, but may be used along with a Hepa and carbon filter. When the filter becomes dirty, the UV light becomes ineffective in its function. Units using multiple levels of filtration become expensive to use, especially when repeatedly replacing filters and lights.
When considering an air purification system, take a look at Alpine Air information. To order a unit click here or on the picture. I’ve had my unit for 20 years and it still works well! Be on the alert for inferior units being sold as Alpine units. Purchasing through my link, you will receive a full three year warranty. Watch for specials. Silent Thunder unit has the quietest fan.
Centrally locate the Alpine Air unit in your home, preferably on a high shelf. The negative ions will travel throughout the house as the air is purified from one room to the next. Start with the unit on the highest setting. When the house has a fresh clean smell, set the unit at a nice maintenance level.