Friday, July 3, 2009

INDOOR AIR POLLUTION.

INDOOR AIR POLLUTION is at its worst, anywhere and everywhere in this world.                         INDOOR AIR POLLUTION is so many times more polluted than outdoor air.                                  INDOOR AIR POLLUTION is in so many forms around us, and in most places, remains left unnoticed or acted upn, until the full volume of indoor natural population is recovered.  

Indoor air pollution is present in many forms all around us, and indoor ai

r can be as much as 100 times more polluted than the air outdoors. There is particulate pollution such as dust, pollen, dander, soot, and various bacterial agents. And there are hundreds of types of gaseous pollutants such as combustion gases from certain appliances and tobacco smoke, as well as formaldehyde and a wide variety of other volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).
sources of indoor air pollution

Even common activities such as cooking, cleaning, and basic grooming can cause the spread of indoor contaminants. Everyday objects in our homes such as perfumes, paints, candles, hair spray, and even air fresheners release polluting chemicals. And in fact people shed more skin than just about any other animal. About 80% of what you see floating in a ray of sunshine entering your home is flakes of dander, and we can only see about 10% of the airborne pollutants.

Contaminated Outdoor Air

As much as you might try to prevent indoor air quality problems, there will always be some contamination from the air outdoors. Some common problem sources include dust, pollen, fungal spores, industrial pollutants, vehicle exhaust, odors from trash and dumpsters, and unsanitary debris near the outdoor HVAC air intake. Every time a door or window is opened, pollutants can enter the room, as well as through leaks in the ductwork and poor weatherstripping.

Dust

Common household dust is the most visible indoor air pollutant that we usually see. It is made from many different sources and comes in all sizes. It is normally compiled of skin flakes, textile fibers such as lint, plant pollen, human and animal hairs, dirt and soil, decomposing insects, and food debris. It can also include soot and particulate matter from cooking and smoking. And more disturbingly, heavy metals such as lead and arsenic have been commonly found in testing, as well as pesticides such as DDT.
Large dust particles twenty microns in size or larger are heavy and tend to land on furniture or the floor. These particles tend to accumulate over time and can cause allergy attacks. Small dust particles less than twenty microns across are much finer and tend to float in the air. This causes a greater risk to those who have chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema because the particles are constantly being inhaled. The average home generates 40 pounds of dust every year per 1500 square feet.

Pollen

Flowering plants and trees are both sources of pollen, but pollens that cause allergies usually come from anemophilus plants. These plants product large amounts of lightweight pollen which is dispersed by the wind. Alder, pine, oak, birch, hickory, pecan, and a variety of summer grasses produce pollens that can cause allergies typically in the spring and early summer. Ragweed is perhaps the most common offender in the late summer and fall.

Dust Mites/Insects

Dust mites are microscopic, insect-like pests that feed on the dead skin cells that comprise a large part of household dust. They don’t bite or burrow into human bodies, but they are one of the most commons allergens as they can trigger allergic reactions and asthma in many people. Hundreds of thousands of dust mites can live in the bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpets or curtains of your home.
The harmful allergen they create comes from their fecal pellets and body fragments. According to the American Lung Association, dust mites are nearly everywhere as roughly four out of five homes in the United States have detectable levels of dust mite allergen in at least one bed. Dust mites accumulate indoors over time and in fact they comprise over 50% of the weight of the average pillow.
Insects are another common source of allergens in most homes. In a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, more than half the homes tested had high numbers of cockroaches. Children living in these homes were more than three times as likely to be hospitalized for asthma. Cockroach antigens are certain proteins found in the insect’s feces, saliva, shed cuticles and eggs. They can trigger allergic reactions and asthma episodes as they are easily airborne and are inhalable by humans.

Bacteria/Viruses

Microbes such as bacteria and viruses can be spread in the air through a variety of sources, causing not only illness but also unpleasant odors. They are literally everywhere, but are especially prevalent in household dust, bedding, pets, poorly maintained air conditioners and HVAC systems, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, furnishings, and any wet or moist structures or areas. Food is also a big source of microbial contamination, both inside the refrigerator and on the counter. Even the kitchen trash can contribute a huge volume of illness-causing bacteria and smells to the air indoors.

Mold Spores/Fungi

Mold spores and fungi are a significant component of household dust and can have adverse health effects in many people. Spores and the mycotoxins released from fungi can enter homes and buildings from the outside air, but they can also form indoors in areas of water damage. This usually occurs with leaking plumbing or poorly functioning air conditioning systems and can appear all through a house from the attic to the basement. These toxins have been demonstrated to cause respiratory illnesses in entire families at high levels, but even low levels of these particles in the air can cause severe asthma symptoms in many people, particularly children.

Pet Dander

Dogs, cats, and birds all make great pets, but their dander can build up in our homes and cause unwanted allergy attacks or increase symptoms for those with a chronic respiratory disease. Pet dander is made up of shed skin flakes, saliva, odors, and other materials that pets can track in from outside. Dog and cat hair are actually not considered to be pet dander although their fur can act as an allergen.
Though cat dander is a particularly strong offender, almost all pets can cause allergies, including small animals like birds, hamsters, and guinea pigs. Pet hair draws in dust, pollen, mold, and other particles to create a buildup of allergens. This settles on carpets, upholstery and bedding and can cause long-term allergy problems.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke (secondhand smoke)

It is now widely accepted that smoking tobacco is not only harmful to the actual smoker, but to all others in the vicinity. This environmental tobacco smoke, or secondhand smoke, is the mixture of smoke from cigarettes, pipes, or cigars. It contains over 200 known poisons and at least 43 compounds known to cause cancer. Even if you don't smoke, you are subjected to secondhand smoke if you live or work with someone who does. Even if you aren’t able to smell the smoke at any given time, the residue of tobacco byproducts still remains and continues to be harmful.
According to the American Lung Association and the EPA, this secondhand smoke is responsible for around 3,000 lung cancer deaths and 35,000 to 50,000 heart disease deaths each year in nonsmoking adults. It also causes between 150,000 and 300,000 respiratory infections in infants each year and worsens the asthma of up to 1 million asthmatics. The children of smokers are especially prone to the consequences of tobacco smoke as their lungs are not yet fully developed, leading to a much higher incidence of asthma than in nonsmoking households.
Despite public acceptance of the fact that smoking causes health problems, many people continue to smoke. According to results of the 1998 National Health Interview Survey, 24.1% of American adults currently smoke. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 43 percent of children, 2 months to 11 years of age, and 37 percent of adults live in a home with at least one smoker.

Domestic Water

Most cities and counties use chlorination to disinfect their water supply and have done so for decades. As a result, when water comes out of your faucet or is heated, chloroform vaporizes into the surrounding air. You can be exposed to chloroform when cooking, washing dishes, doing the laundry, showering, or even opening the dishwasher. In fact taking a long hot shower in a typical small shower stall can substantially increase your exposure to chloroform.
Chloroform fumes can be released into the home not only from chlorinated tap water, but also chlorinated spas and pools, as well as bleach-containing cleaners. The vapors become airborne and mix with other particles in the house and are inhaled by others, exacerbating asthma and other respiratory problems. There is also concern that chlorine and its by-products are a carcinogen, as there are possible links to bladder, rectal, and colon cancer.

Dry Cleaning

The process of dry cleaning clothes and other fabrics uses chemical solvents instead of water. Chlorinated chemicals are also used such as perchloroethylene (PERC) and methyl chloroform, both of which are also used by many services that clean carpets, drapes, and upholstered furniture in your home. When the process is completed, some chemical residue remains in the fabric. These solvents eventually evaporate, mostly into the air inside your home. These chemicals have been classified as probable carcinogens and much work is being done to find safer alternatives to traditional dry cleaning.

Pesticides

Studies have shown that about 80 percent of the average person’s exposure to pesticides actually occurs inside their own homes. The EPA has found that most homes in the U.S. have measurable levels of up to a dozen different pesticides in the air indoors. Much of this comes from pesticides that have been used inside. Other sources of contamination include certain lawn and garden products tracked inside from contaminated soil or dust from outside.
Many different pesticides are used in and around the home, including products to control insects, termites, rodents, fungi, and microbes. They are sold as sprays, liquids, sticks, powders, crystals, balls, and foggers. Pesticides are classed as semi-volatile organic compounds and include a variety of chemicals in various forms. They are inherently toxic, as many have carcinogenic properties, and human contact with pesticide vapors should be as limited as possible.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids and are common pollutants in the average home. Concentrations of many VOCs have been consistently shown to be up to ten times higher indoors than outdoors. They are emitted by literally hundreds of different products commonly found in homes.
Some examples include paints and lacquers, wood preservatives, paint strippers, cleaning supplies including drain and toilet cleaners and even air fresheners, aerosols, pesticides including mothballs, building materials and furnishings, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions. Even many cosmetic products such as nail polish and hair spray can release VOCs into the air, as well as some vinyl as plastic products such as rubber bath mats and shower curtains.
Despite listings of ingredients and clearly marked warnings on many products, people often purchase them without bothering to read the labels. The average home contains around 45 aerosol products along. Several VOCs commonly found in indoor air are extremely toxic, having been linked to cancer and other negative health effects. These include benzene, perchloroethylene (PERC), chloroform, paradichlorobenzene, and 1,4-dichlorobenzene, among many others.
Benzene can enter the home from outdoor sources including nearby traffic and automobile exhaust. Cans of gasoline stored in an attached garage, tobacco smoke, and products such paints, waxes, and detergents can release benzene fumes into the home. Benzene vapors can also enter the home from underlying groundwater and soil contaminated by leaking underground fuel storage tanks or fuel lines. In fact it was recently reported that benzene is commonly found in buildings which are located within 100 meters of a gas station.

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is specific VOC commonly found in indoor air that is widely used to produce household products and building supplies. The major sources in the home are the urea-formaldehyde resins which are use to make pressed wood products such as particleboard, fiberboard, and plywood. These are used throughout the home from sub-floors and insulation to decorative wall coverings as well as furniture and cabinets. In addition, some upholstery and drapery fabrics, various paints and adhesives, carpet backing, tobacco smoke, and even nail polish all contain formaldehyde.
Considered a carcinogen, formaldehyde has been shown in animal studies to be linked to nasal and respiratory cancers. Lower amounts can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as coughing, fatigue, skin rash, or allergic reactions. Formaldehyde doubles its level of out-gassing for every 10°F increase in temperature, and areas of high humidity also have higher levels of vapor emissions.
A recent report by the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board raises concerns about the indoor air quality in new homes. Almost every home in the study had levels of formaldehyde that exceeded guidelines for chronic irritation as well as long-term cancer risk.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Any type of combustion, especially inefficient combustion, produces pollutants including heavy particles called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs have been shown to cause cancer in animals and are suspected human carcinogens. Exposure may occur both through ingestion and inhalation.
Common sources of PAHs include tobacco smoke, fireplaces, charcoal grills, and even self-cleaning ovens. They also enter the home through polluted outdoor air and are especially prevalent near areas of high vehicle traffic.

Indoor Combustion Gases

Inefficient combustion also releases toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. The most common sources include certain appliances such as stoves, space heaters, and furnaces, fireplaces, tobacco smoke, and vehicles exhaust from attached garages or the street.

Phthalates

Phthalates are chemicals used to disperse scents and make plastic flexible. Found in detergents, air fresheners, vinyl flooring, vinyl shower curtains and certain cosmetics and fragrances, they are linked with reproductive and developmental problems and, studies indicate, an increased risk for asthma and allergies.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

PBDEs are flame retardants added to plastics, foams, and fabrics. They are found in some TVs, computers, mattresses, and furniture, and they are present in household dust and dryer lint. Exposure can cause brain and reproductive problems in developing animals. Children in the most contaminated homes may be ingesting enough PBDEs, which are suspected to be endocrine disrupters, from dust to raise public health concerns.

HVAC systems (Heating, Venting, Air Conditioners)

HVAC systems that are unsealed or unvented if they are malfunctioning or poorly designed can lead to poor ventilation, as well as excess humidity and moisture. The air ducts can become a perfect environment for mold, and can cause allergy problems and structural damage by encouraging the growth of molds, mildew, bacteria, dust mites, dry rot, and insects.

Candles

Candle soot is associated with candles made from paraffin wax along with scented candles. These soot particles are so small they easily penetrate the deepest part of the lungs, aggravating respiratory diseases. In addition to soot, some health experts are concerned about the production of low levels of formaldehyde, acetone, benzene, lead and mercury.

Hydrogen Sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide is the colorless gas that produces rotten egg or sulfur-like odors in well water, sewer systems, dry drain traps, and other areas where water and organic compounds have a lack of oxygen. It is a normal constituent of sewer gas and can be detected by people at a level of as low as 0.0047 ppm (parts per million), while only 10 to 15 ppm can cause eye and throat irritation, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Heavy Metals (Airborne Lead and Mercury Vapor)

It is well documented that many older homes have high levels of lead in their paint which can become part of airborne dust over time, usually from removing, sanding, scraping or burning the paint. Though these paints have become outlawed for use in newer homes, until 1990, many interior latex (water-based) paints contained a preservative called phenylmercuric acetate (PMA). Just as lead paint causes household dust to have significant levels of airborne lead, PMA causes elevated levels of mercury vapor in the air indoors.
Other sources of airborne heavy metals include the use of treated or painted wood in fireplaces and improperly vented wood stoves. Also certain art and craft materials may contain lead, though the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires its presence to be declared on the product label. Significant quantities are found still in many paints and glazes, stained glass, as well as in some solder. The repair and cleaning of automobile radiators in poorly ventilated premises can expose workers to dangerous levels of airborne lead.

Laser Printers

Many people are unaware that the toner used in common laser printers is a significant source of ultrafine particulate matter, contaminating many home offices and workplaces. The very worst printers released amounts of these particulates that rival plumes of secondhand smoke. The particles can be 1000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair and can work their way deep into the lung, leading to heart disease and severe respiratory problems.

Ozone

Ground level ozone is an air pollutant that can have harmful effects on our respiratory system, particularly in asthmatics. Ozone is part of smog pollution but is also produced on purpose by some machines as an odor disinfectant. Many of these ozone machines have been found to produce ozone at levels that may result in severe respiratory irritation, and so all ozone generators have been recently banned by the state of California for residential use.

IS YOUR KITCHEN HEALTHY?                                                          Ask in tandem if your bedroom is healthy?

Where do you think is life healthier and the air cleaner? Is it while you are Busy cooking in a stuffy and congested kitchen with a gas cooker for 3 to 5 hours daily, or walking through the streets of a smoke filled city centre street?  Is it while you are having your 6 to 8 hours of sleep or while you are out on the streets? 

Which of these three locations...the kitchen...the bed room...or the busy street is likely to be contaminated with toxins? 

There are enough studies and clinical documents to support and substantiate that indoor air pollution is far more toxic and more noxious than the air in the traffic choked streets. An ugly truth is that we make indoor air even worse with use of air fresheners,strong detergents and cleaning products, toxins off wall paints, polishes, varnish and fumes and vapour off electrical products. Also permitting the continuous indoor build up of polluted air is modern architecture that has sealed off the entire interior of home from the outside world and cut off the element of air circulation and air ventilation.

Air samples studied by scientists show over and over again that high levels of gases, nitrogen dioxide, and highly toxic carbon monoxide is found in kitchens with gas stoves and ovens. It is these unseen levels of air pollution, that initially affects, leads on to "immunity" and body tolerance level gives way, a whole series of health complications settles in. The biggest risks are faced by stay home mothers, children, elders and people with respiratory  and cardiovascular problems. 

In respect of indoor air pollution, toxic gases, and pollutes like volatile organic compounds and air borne minute solid particles, these tend to find their way into the lungs and even the placenta of pregnant women. Autism is  suspected  in children exposed to indoor air pollution. 

We and our family members spend up to 90% or more of our time indoors within our home. We all have failed to think about and act to remedy the effects of indoor air pollution on our health. As mentioned above, our air tight homes are toxic cages binding us within and creating impacts on our health. 

We need to have our indoor air washed regularly. With about 2 liters of water in a basin, the new Rainbow system washes air, and when necessary can also help to sanitise or even medicate a room with eucalyptus. To see a Rainbow demo in Kuala Lumpur or Selangor, cal K Thiruselvam at 016-3712762.