Summer time brings with it carefree days by the pool, picnics in the park and . . .
Air Quality Advisories warning you to stay indoors?
The real question is this: are you really any safer indoors?
On those hot days, when you are forced indoors by the air quality index warnings, chances are that you are shutting yourself into an equally noxious indoor environment. During the summer months, the EPA makes a daily calculation of how much pollution is in the air. Certain elements like ozone, particles (pollen, dust, etc), the overall temperature of the air and the amount of UV exposure are measured to determine how much of a combined hazard is created. If one of more of these elements are higher than would be safe, it usually is advisable to spend the day indoors.
An overlooked factor in the EPA’s advise to stay indoors is the quality of your indoor air. Statistics have shown that very few people understand just how hazardous your indoor air can be. You typically spend 90% of your day indoors, whether you are at work, at school or at home, and the truth is that you encounter far more dangerous conditions indoors. Apparently 80-90% of all the pesticides that come in contact with your body do so inside your home. Simple house-hold appliances like gas stoves or gas water heaters can cause carbon monoxide poisoning-this condition is commonly overlooked because of its cold or flu-like symptoms. This means that part of the problem with indoor pollution is that no one is aware of the full extent of the danger or able to detect or indentify the symptoms of bad indoor air quality.
Some Unsavory Things Found in Your Indoor Air:
- Formaldehyde is a chemical compound that is found in adhesive or bonding agents used in the construction of furniture. It is also emitted by carpet, upholstery, particle board and plywood.
- Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is naturally occurring and can enter your house through basements and crawlspaces. It is estimate that one in every 15 homes has radon levels that merit immediate action (according to the EPA). Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer (smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer).
- Biological pollutants are naturally occurring in your home or are easily brought inside from the outdoors. These include molds, bacteria, viruses, pollen, dust mites and animal dander. Large amounts of these elements can make even a healthy person experience irritation or develop allergic sensitivities.
- Molds are responsible for a number of health conditions ranging from asthma to cancer. The result of mold exposure varies depending on the amount of mold spores in the air and the variety of mold that produced them. There are even a few varieties of mold that can enter your body, causing disastrous health problems.
- Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with how oxygen is distributed throughout your body. The carbon monoxide in your home comes from anything that uses gas, fuel or wood. These appliances include fuel burning stoves, furnaces, fireplaces, heaters, water heaters and dryers.
- Nitrogen Dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is also produced by fuel burning elements in your home, just like the appliances listed above that also produce carbon monoxide.
- Asbestos products are found in many homes in roofing and flooring materials, wall and pipe insulation, spackling compounds, cement, coating materials, heating equipment and acoustic insulation. The potential problems arise as these elements deteriorate with age or are disturbed and become airborne.
- Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is another name for second hand smoke. This is a very familiar pollutant to many people-but if you have lived with ETS for many years, you are at just as much risk for developing health problems as people who are smokers.
- Everyday cleaning supplies, personal care products, paints, pesticides, hobby products and solvents represent a huge group of potentially dangerous chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for causing anything from dizziness and nausea, to allergic reactions and even to cancer.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
- Be aware of the potential hazards in your home, work or school. For example: damp areas are prone to molds; houses with adjoined garages may cause carbon monoxide to enter the house, etc. It’s not good to be paranoid, but be aware of potentially harmful indoor environments.
- Be aware of the health symptoms linked to poor indoor air quality and inform your health provider if you have any reason to suspect that an illness may be attributed to air pollution.
- Have the air inside your home tested. There are many do-it-yourself test kits that are available, but some air contaminants can only be detected by specialized equipment that can costs hundreds or thousands of dollars. Consult a professional to have you air thoroughly tested.
- Install an air purification system. One way to temper any potential hazards is to be proactive. An air purification system that has HEPA filters (like those made by Dynamic Air Cleaners) is very effective at removing any harmful particulates. As for other contaminants, such as gases and odors, viruses and bacteria or mold spores, utilizing a ultra violet air purifier will neutralize any concerns. Both Biozone air purifiers and Air Oasis air purifiers use this technology. Consider installing a whole house air purifier system, so that your home can be a safe haven from unhealthy air quality.
- Consider installing carbon monoxide detectors as well as smoke detectors.
The Quality of Your Air determines the Quality of Your Life!
To check your current outdoor Air Quality Index (AQI), check out http://www.AirNow.gov
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