Is Your Home Hazardous To Your Health? How Indoor Air Pollution May Trigger Illness
By Mark Tsang
We tend to think of our homes as our havens--safe places to go in order to retreat from the assault of modern life. For the most part this is true. But there is a hidden danger lurking in the seemingly tranquil and protective confines of our houses, and it's something we ought to sit up and notice. That hidden danger is the quality of indoor air.
The act of breathing is so natural we don't even realize we're doing it, but what about the air that we take in every time we inhale? When was the last time you stopped to think about the quality of the air you were taking into your lungs, transmitting deep down into the cells of your body?
If you were recently standing on a polluted corner of a busy city sidewalk, well, maybe you did stop to wonder about what sorts of dirt and dust molecules were seeping into your body. But for most of us, especially when we're in our own homes, the quality of the air we're breathing is not a big consideration--or not even a consideration at all.
The truth of the matter is, the quality of air indoors (even in seemingly clean homes) can actually be far poorer than that of even the biggest, most industrialized, and dirtiest urban centers! To put that in plainer language: the air in your home could be worse for your health than the air you breathe walking through New York City or Beijing or San Francisco.
What causes such potent and potentially harmful indoor pollution? For starters, the indoor usage of substances like cigarettes and cigars, paint, coal, furniture polish, cleaning fluids, asbestos, space heaters, and so on, can create a build-up of hazardous particles. The degree of severity often depends on whether or not there is adequate ventilation--how much outdoor air can get into the house, and vice versa. A home with very poor ventilation will pose a much worse health threat to its inhabitants than a home with lots of open windows and excellent ventilation. That's not to say that homes with good ventilation can't still be polluted--in fact, they certainly can be.
Because most of us spend most of our time inside, rather than out of doors, the build-up of chemical and other airborne pollutants can pose serious health risks, triggering various ailments over time. This is especially true when the inhabitants of a home are elderly, chronically ill, or very young, or if they already have certain types of respiratory disease.
The particular physical response depends on the type of contaminant. Biological pollutants may provoke allergic reactions, while types of tobacco smoke and other contaminants can trigger asthma attacks or create asthmatic conditions. Molds and mildews can spread more serious health problems, and the presence of contaminants like carbon monoxide can even result in death if the proper alert system (a carbon monoxide detector) is not in place and fully functioning.
The good news is that you don't have to live with hazardous air. Just recognizing the possibility of indoor air pollution is the first step toward creating an environment that is free of hazardous airborne particles. Read the related articles on air purifiers and air quality to learn what steps you can take to achieve cleaner air and a healthier lifestyle.