How Dirty Is The Air You Breathe?

Do You Know What’s In The Air you Breathe?

We all readily assume the air we breathe is clean and harmless because that is what keeps us alive, right? But have you ever stopped to think about what is in that clear, odorless air you breathe? Do you believe the air you breathe is pure and clean just because you cannot see anything floating in it? If you believe that, I’d advise you to read this article. It will only take you a minute or so.

‘Seeing’ What is in the Air Around You

Now, this is a tricky one to visualize, so maybe it would be helpful to draw you a comparison here. An example of what you eat as a comparison for what you breathe, while not exactly the same is close enough to illustrate the point I’m making. Let me ask, do you boldly eat items of food when you don’t know what’s in them? I doubt it.

Without laboring the point, how would you feel if the food items you buy in supermarkets and stores were not regulated and pre-packaged, but in fact came in plain brown boxes marked “Food”. Without any regulation that told you where they had been or what had been put in them, would you still eat these items if you received them in these circumstances?

It would be like eating food that you found lying around, abandoned. It might look fine, but you would certainly think twice about eating it; unless you were desperate or starving of course. Nevertheless, keep this scenario in mind as you go over to thinking about the air you breathe.

While you can always opt out of eating certain foods, you don’t have quite the same options when it come to breathing–Should you breathe in air if you do not know what is in it? Both food and air are brought into your body and both can create adverse health conditions, but you undoubtedly think about the one a lot more than you do the other. Breathing just occurs naturally without you stopping to think about it. You make this decision just by being where you are. Indoor air quality is a topic of massive importance, but of course many indoor air pollutants are invisible to the naked eye and, as the saying goes, out of sight out of mind.

There are many sources of pollutants within the modern home. It’s a growing problem, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or USEPA) has identified by stating that the air inside buildings and homes can be from 3 to 5 times dirtier than the air outside of them. Throw in the fact that many people are indoors for up to 90% of their lives, you begin to realize just how much exposure to indoor pollutants people really can be subjected to.

Any of the materials used in the construction of your home could be a source of airborne contaminants. You may have building materials such as insulation that contain asbestos (unlikely, but it still happens) or you may have carpeting that holds too much moisture. Your furniture in some cases can even be an unlikely source. The list of potential irritants includes the cleaning products and other chemical compounds that you use in your home. Also, your heating or cooling system can contribute airborne pollutants too, as can your humidifier.

This is just a small sample of potential sources of pollutants inside your home. before you even stop to consider that outdoor pollution can easily find its way inside your home too. When you realize the staggering amount of possible sources of indoor air pollutants, you start to wonder just what it is that you breathe in as you walk around your home or as you sleep at night.

The Dangers From Radon Gas

Air purifier dangers of radon gas image

A concept illustration of the dangers of Radon Gas in our homes.

When it comes to determining the actual quality of the air in your home, the EPA has issued guidelines, with their main recommendation being that you have the radon level in your home checked. At this point you might be wondering what is radon gas? Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally and is odorless, colorless and tasteless. All homes have some level of radon and testing is the only way to determine how much radon is present in your home, or your drinking water.

Do-it-yourself test kits are available at many local hardware stores. Be aware that when radon gas exceeds acceptable levels, the result can be deadly. When inhaled, radon gas can damage the lung cells, thereby leading to an increased risk of lung cancer. Should you need further help or advice on radon gas, the EPS can point you in the right direction.

OK, radon is covered but what about all the other substances that can be in the air that are equally invisible? Should you have professionals test for each of these? Would you know if something was wrong with the air in your home? Is something wrong with it now? These are valid questions to ask yourself, but for determining the presence of other pollutants in your home, it may actually be best to consider monitoring the situation until some sort of physical symptoms show themselves.

Other Airborne Pollutants

Realistically, you probably want to have a reason to check for other airborne pollutants and irritants because the testing for these can be both laborious and expensive.

By now I hope you’re accepting there are contaminants in the air we breathe, which leads naturally on to the question, “How much of each pollutant is in the air you breathe and is that amount enough to cause damage either now or over time?

You will want to know how often these sources release pollutants into the air. While some sources continuously release their contaminants, other sources only do so at certain times.

An often overlooked source of indoor air contaminants can be your air fresheners and bug sprays. The chemicals contained in some of these may not be the best for your respiratory health even if they come wrapped in delightful floral smells.

While smoking is an obvious major source of indoor pollutants, others can include poorly maintained stoves and furnaces. Further more items that can contribute to the contamination of the air inside your home, are: cleaning products, painting and redecorating products, and pesticides Some pollutants that are released, disperse quickly and are rendered harmless soon after the event that released them, while others can hang around for much longer after you have put the pollutants’ dispensers or canisters away.

The level of pollutants in the air inside your home can be influenced by the amount of ventilation in your home. When you have adequate ventilation, some or all of the pollutants in the air will naturally be dispersed due to the mixing of inside and outside air.

On the other hand, if your house is air-tight, it stands to reason that you’ll receive higher levels of whatever pollutants are floating around in the air. Higher levels of pollutant means a greater potential for unpleasant or harmful symptoms. The problem doesn’t go away easily because many homes are designed to minimize the amount of air that is allowed to leave or enter your home.

It makes sense that for heating or cooling systems to be effective you want as little outside air as possible to be coming in so that it will be easier to maintain the desired temperature inside your home. This means that the concentration of pollutants in the air can change drastically during the seasons where you lock your home up tight or where you open the windows to let fresh air in on a daily basis.

We’ve already touched on a simple solution, which is adequate ventilation. Opening windows when the weather is clement will provide improved ventilation. If you cannot or don’t want to do that, using an air purifier will provide a viable alternative solution.

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