Gerber Life Family Times --- News and tips for familes of all ages and stages of life

All I Need is the Air that I Breathe  
Smoke, mold, dust, and more can be floating in your household air.

 

ImageAir. You can't see it. You can't feel it. You can't taste it. But it's all around you and your family. From outdoor air to the air we find in the safety of our own home, there are a whole range of impurities that make the act of breathing more challenging than ever before. As technology has changed and advanced over the years, we have become acutely aware of the microscopic world that floats around us and makes its way into our bodies with each and every breath. Many of those impurities become allergens to susceptible people and some even have carcinogenic properties that may lead to more serious health complications later in life. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research indicates that people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors (leisure time at home, time on the job, in school, attending events, etc.). With such a high proportion of our time spent inside, the issue of indoor air quality takes on new importance for your overall health and the health of your family.

There are a multitude of items in our homes and workplaces that release particles or gases that become the primary sources of indoor air pollution. When adequate ventilation doesn't exist to either remove the contaminants or dilute them by bringing in fresh air from outdoors, we begin to see problems with indoor air quality. Although there are many possible sources for indoor air pollution, the EPA notes the following as primary sources:

  • Building materials and furnishings (i.e., deteriorated asbestos-containing insulation, wet or damp carpeting, and cabinets or furnishings made of pressed wood products which often contain formaldehyde)
  • Central heating and cooling systems
  • Dehumidification and humidification units
  • Household maintenance and cleaning products
  • Indoor heating combustion sources such as coal, gas, kerosene, oil, and wood furnaces
  • Outdoor sources such as radon gas, pesticides, and outdoor air pollution
  • Personal care products
  • Tobacco products

ImageWith moves over past decades to make homes airtight for the sake of energy efficiency, many of the previous gaps around windows and doors that once provided some exchange of fresh outdoor air for indoor air have been eliminated. The result has been fouled air being trapped indoors and becoming increasingly saturated with pollutants. The EPA notes that outdoor air enters and leaves a house by one of three means: infiltration, natural ventilation, or mechanical ventilation. With infiltration, outdoor air flows into the house around windows and doors, and through openings, cracks, and joints in ceilings, walls, and floors. Natural ventilation refers to the movement of outdoor air through open doors and windows. Mechanical ventilation systems include outdoor-vented fans that remove air from a single room like a bathroom or kitchen (where excess moisture may be present) and air handling systems that utilize fans and ductwork to continuously exchange polluted indoor air with filtered and conditioned outdoor air.

For those sensitive to indoor air contaminates, the health effects may show up immediately or after repeated exposures. The EPA notes signs to be aware of include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. If indoor air pollution poses a problem, the EPA recommends the following strategies:

  • Control the pollution source—Eliminate the individual sources of pollution or reduce their emissions. Asbestos-containing insulation should be professionally removed, sealed, or enclosed. Indoor heating sources should be properly maintained, checked annually, and should be properly vented.
  • Reduce or eliminate smoking indoors.
  • Reduce or eliminate biological contaminates such as house dust mites, pollen, molds, mildews, and animal dander with regular cleaning.
  • Wash bedding in hot (130 F) water.
  • Replace carpeting with solid surface flooring that won't trap contaminates and hold the moisture that leads to mold and mildew.
  • Use a dehumidifier to maintain a relative humidity level of between 30-50 percent in your home to help deter mold and mildew.
  • Thoroughly clean and dry any damp or water-damaged items within 24 hours or remove and replace them.
  • If using humidifiers or dehumidifiers, clean the appliances regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Ventilate attics and crawl spaces to prevent the build-up of moisture.
  • When using paints, varnishes, and solvent-based materials, use them outdoors or, at the very least, ensure adequate ventilation when using them indoors.
  • Use household cleaning products in well-ventilated areas.
  • Look for mold on the soil surrounding houseplants. If you notice mold, remove the old soil and repot the plant with fresh soil.

By following some basic guidelines and making certain there is a flow of fresh outdoor air into your home, you can rest assured that indoor air pollution is being kept under control and that your family can continue to breathe easy!

Sources:
American Lung Association—www.lungusa.org
Environmental Protection Agency—www.epa.gov

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.



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