Indoor pollutants

When we speak air pollution, we usually think black smoke belching out the rear of a bus, or soot coming out of a plant’s chimney.

But did you know that there’s air pollution too right in your home? (And nope, it’s not the air belched out the rear, hehe).

Common pollutants at home are tobacco smoke,  fumes from kerosene, or coal-/wood-burning, car emissions in the garage, and household cleaning agents/chemicals/insecticides.

Furniture and cabinets, especially those made of pressed wood or fiber boards (MDF, HDF, particle boards) that use urea resin, may emit formaldehyde, a common indoor pollutant.  Adverse effects of formaldehyde exposure on human health include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; and severe allergic reactions. Formaldehyde causes cancer in animals, but more conclusive studies are needed to prove if it does in humans.

Another stealthy source of indoor pollution is asbestos, a common building material used in insulation, roofing, and fire-retardant surfaces. Asbestos sits stealthily, seemingly innocuous, until it’s stirred and disturbed. Then it causes health problems.

There are no immediately recognizable symptoms, but long-term effects include lung and abdominal cancers collectively called Mesothelioma, one of the more serious consequences of asbestos exposure. In the U.S., about 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.

Symptoms of involvement of the lungs (called pleural mesothelioma, the most common form) include shortness of breath, chest pain, pleural effusion (”water in the lungs”), chronic cough, and coughing up blood.

Air pollution can also happen in your own home. Be wary of sources of indoor pollution to ensure your family’s health.

One thought on “Indoor pollutants

  1. Thanks for touching the indoor air formaldehyde issue. Would you be interested in providing additional coverage? The California Air Resource Board has published research that just isn’t getting covered by the traditional news media. Some of the key points are that 98% of the homes test exceed the State’s recommended concentration of formaldehyde. The fiberglass wall insulation is typically the largest source in a home. Formaldehyde is known to cause asthma and cancer. Both started to increase significantly in children as states adopted their energy codes back in 1978 through 1984, which essentially required homes to be wrapped in insulation. Even today so called “green” homes that also claim to be healthy have dramatically higher concentration of formaldehyde than conventional homes. This is because green home typcially have less ventilation. What is so frustrating is we as a society learned during the first energy crisis back in the 1970’s that buildings needed to have a complete air exchange every hour to prevent sick building and quickly wrote that requirement into our building codes. We didn’t do the same with residential homes. The typical home takes 5 to 10 hours to exchange the air once. I’d be happy to provide reference material if you would want to do more writting.

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