How Air Quality Affects Health
Whether you live in an urban loft in Europe or a rural farmhouse in Kansas, there’s one thing we all have in common: We need air to breathe. In a perfect world, we’d all like to breathe uncontaminated air, but this can be harder to accomplish than you think. You might imagine if you avoid the smoggy skies of downtown neighborhoods or congested freeways, you’re largely safe from poor quality air, but the biggest concern to most people’s health is actually indoor air quality.
Sadly, it’s true: Poor indoor air quality has the potential to do more harm to your health than car exhaust ever could. Because most people now spend the majority of their lives indoors, it’s important to study indoor air quality and figure out how to purify the air we’re breathing in our homes. Let’s take a closer look at why indoor air quality matters and what you can do to protect yourself and your home.
Indoor air pollutants come from common sources like carpet fibers, paint, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in fabric dyes. A combination of moisture and heat can also lead to hidden mold, a dangerous pollutant. Short of living in a bubble, there’s no way we can avoid all of these contaminants. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to mitigate the serious effects of poor indoor air quality, which can lead to sickness and even death. In 2016, 2.6 million people died around the world from conditions related to poor indoor air quality, with the most common illnesses being pneumonia, stroke, and lung cancer.
According to the EPA, exposure to indoor air pollution can lead to immediate health effects, but related symptoms may not show up for years. Examples of immediate symptoms to pollutant exposure can include headaches, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes and throat. Long-term effects may include respiratory and cardiovascular diseases or cancer.
Air Quality Studies
There a couple key studies relating to indoor air quality, but many hold the view that there are huge gaps in knowledge in this area. While institutions such as the World Health Organization track the number of worldwide deaths from air pollution, other committees and universities have researched how indoor air quality affects the human body and recommended policy changes to improve conditions. Two of the biggest research endeavors are:
THADE: The EU-funded “Towards Healthy AIr Dwellings in Europe” (THADE) project evaluated data on the health effects of air pollution in dwellings and cost-effective ways to improve conditions. They then created a report summarizing their findings and policy recommendations in Europe.
PINCHE: The PINCHE project looked at air pollution threats in children’s environments and recommended further research on indoor air and related contaminants.
The Future of Air Quality
So, what does the future of indoor air quality look like? During the summer of 2018, HOMEchem, the largest indoor air quality study in the United States, is taking place at The University of Texas at Austin. HOMEchem brings together research teams from 15 universities who will carefully assess the types of contaminants that exist and attempt to determine which conditions promote the most contaminants.
On top of research, many products are hitting the market that will help homeowners monitor their air quality and make improvements. The Foobot, for instance, is a monitor that constantly checks a building’s air for pollution and alerts you when the air quality is reaching a dangerous point. Air filters with a high MERV rating also protect you against a lot of airborne germs and pollution.
Are you worried about the indoor air quality in your home or business? Contact Bob Jenson today to get an evaluation of your HVAC system. A duct cleaning and filter change are a good place to start when it comes to improving the air quality in the places you breathe most.
For over 45 years, Bob Jenson has been providing quality heating and air services to the San Diego community.
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