When it comes to your health and well-being, the air you breathe is of the essence. Nowadays, you are not just what you eat, but you are also what you breathe – the more so because the quality of your health is an indicator that you are not exposed to harmful air pollutants.
As per Air Quality Canada, people spend 90% of their time indoors, without realizing that the air they are breathing is 5 times more polluted than the outdoor air. The culprit of the toxic air could be excessive particulate matter, CO and CO2 levels, Radon, presence of VOCs from building materials, day-to-day products and human activities. The issue is, most people are unaware of the ill-effects of poor indoor air quality (IAQ) and gambling with their health. These air pollutants have a low boiling point, which means their molecules evaporate and enter into the air easily. Once these pollutants come into contact with indoor air, they either become vapours or gases. The research indicates that these harmful chemicals in the air can result in short term or long-term health effects, even if we have learned to co-exist with them. These hazards are well warranted as your negligence can cause irreversible and devastating consequences.
Top Indoor pollutants and their effect on health
To protect yourself and your family, you need to regulate the exposure to high concentrations of the indoor air pollutants. People with respiratory diseases and people with heightened sensitivity are more susceptible to the health risks caused by air pollutants. Here are the top indoor air pollutants and their implications on the human body.
VOC – Volatile organic compounds
It is a large group of chemicals that are present in the products and materials used to maintain and build your house. Once these chemicals come into contact with the indoor air that you breathe, they release themselves. As per the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the concentrations of many VOCs are 10 times higher indoors than outdoors. The most common VOCs that are present in the air are – benzene, ethylene, glycol, formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, methylene chloride etc. The major sources of these chemicals are the day-to-day household products that you use – building materials, home & personal care products and human activities.
|Building Material||Paint, adhesives, carpet, vinyl flooring, composite wooden products, insulation, upholstery and foam etc.|
|Home & Personal Care||Hairsprays, air fresheners, cleaning products, cosmetics, fuel oil, gasoline|
|Human Activities||Smoking, Cooking, burning woods, printers, photocopiers, dry cleaning etc.|
These two factors determine the health risks of VOCs – 1. the amount of VOC present in the air and 2. how long or how often a person breathes in it. Each chemical in the VOC family has its own level of toxicity and its own potential for causing health risks. Short-term exposure to VOC levels can cause – headaches, nausea, dizziness, irritation in eyes, nose and throat and can be a potential trigger for asthma. The long-term exposures are linked to severe problems like liver and kidney damage, cancer and central nervous system damage.
Excess CO and CO2 levels
Gas-fired appliances including furnaces, water heaters, fireplace and gas dryers produce carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the air. The concentration of these two can be fatal as high levels of CO and CO2 means lack of oxygen in the home. Exposure to lower levels of carbon monoxide can cause memory loss, fatigue, chest pain and confusion while exposure to high levels results in impaired vision and angina. Excess levels of CO2 are caused by poor ventilation and humans themselves, as it is a byproduct of the respiratory function. It significantly affects the cognitive function of a person. Many jurisdictions have laws on the books that require working CO detectors be in place on both residential and commercial buildings. Fines for non-compliance can be significant.
It is one of the primary sources of indoor air pollution. It is a colourless and odourless radioactive gas which is also a leading cause of lung cancer. It occurs due to a natural breakdown of uranium in rock and soil to form radium, which then becomes radon gas. It can enter into your building from anywhere, through your faucet and shower. Once it decays, it releases radioactive particles that are lethal to human health.
Particulate matter (PM 2.5)
A range of particles with less than 2.5 microns in diameter are called particulate matter. It can be solid, liquid or a mixture of both and it is so tiny, that it can be carried by indoor air and can travel deeper into your lungs. The sources of PM 2.5 are fungal spores, aerosol, vacuuming, poor ventilation, furnaces, smoking, mould, etc. Exposure of medium to the high concentration of PM 2.5 in the air has adverse effects on health. It can affect breathing functions, heart functions and can worsen the condition of people with underlying breathing and heart issues.
How to reduce the levels of air toxins?
Air pollution has become a global threat, as it affects not just the environment, but human life as well. Studies indicate that there is an increase in the rate of hospital visits and work absences as a result of exposure to air pollutants. Toxic air pollutants cost money, health and lives. Fortunately, to some extent, it is possible to eliminate or limit some sources of these harmful chemicals – by increasing ventilation, keeping temperature and humidity low in your home, removing the sources like paints, adhesives and other chemicals when they are not in use, buy furniture made of solid wood instead of composite wood etc.
But some air pollutants cannot be seen with naked eyes, in that case, you will need a a low cost device to monitor pollutants in your home like a sensor which will track the air quality and give you insights about unsafe levels of air pollutants detected. Visit Hwisel.com and explore our wide range of smart sensors to make your home safe and healthier. You can install a carbon monoxide alarm and IAQ monitor – they monitor the indoor environment, rate the air quality and give you smart clues to eliminate the source of poor air. Keep toxic air pollutants at bay with Hwisel! Also, signup for our Newsletter to stay current on future products or services. Technology is constantly changing.