How safe is the indoor air you are breathing?
Many of us get very little fresh air. The average adult spends around 90% of their time indoors. We often go from our homes, to our cars, to our workplace and then back into our homes. We all definitely need to get more FRESH AIR!
What are some of the indoor air pollutants? Just some examples of indoor air pollutants are carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other combustion related pollutants such as second hand tobacco smoke. Bacteria and viruses, mold, pet dander, insect parts (dust mites or roaches), and chemicals found in household cleaning supplies and even some of our personal care and beauty products. Some other examples of indoor air pollutants are faulty furnaces, mold growing in carpeting, or even a freshly painted room. Even burning candles can emit small amounts of toxins such as acetone, benzene, lead and mercury into the air.
Pollutants from outside the home can even come into your home and be an indoor air pollutant. One such example is a car that is running in the garage that is attached to the house. Some additional examples are burning leaves or trash and radon gas coming into your house from the ground below.
What Are Some of the Risks of Indoor Air Pollutants? - Breathing indoor air pollutants can lead to many health problems such as asthmatic reactions, allergic reactions and infections. Another example is the case of one woman who was poisoned by the dry cleaning chemicals that she was exposed to. She suffered from a plethora of symptoms like muscle pain and weakness, fatigue, inability to breathe, and more. Headaches, nausea, vomiting, brain damage, and even death can occur when high enough levels of carbon monoxide are inhaled. Exposure to radon may increase the risk of lung cancer. Exposure to VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) may adversely affect the lungs, brain, and nervous systems.
How do Indoor Air Pollutants Affect Your Health?
Some people may be affected greatly while others are not affected at all by indoor air pollutants. How the indoor air pollutants affect us depends on a number of factors. One factor is the overall health of a person. Healthy individuals will of course not be affected as severely, if at all, by the same indoor air pollutant that can make an ill person much sicker. Age is another factor. Infants and the elderly are usually much more sensitive to indoor air pollutants because their immune systems are either not yet fully developed, or are weak. Regardless of health or age however, there are three other factors that will determine how your health can be affected by indoor air pollutants. Those two things are: 1) the amount of pollutant you inhale, 2) the type of pollutant and 3) the length of time that you are exposed to the pollutant.
Air purifying techniques
There are several different processes of varying effectiveness that can be used to purify air. Every air purification technology has its inherant strengths and weaknesses. In which case, an air purifier that offers multiple technologies is generally best, in order to combine the advantages, and eliminate the disadvantages of each air purification method. Certain technologies have little effect in removing solid particles from the air. UV purifiers or ozone air purifiers without a separate ionizer (such as needlepoints, many only produce small amount of ions as a byproduct) and/or a Hepa air filter will not be able to remove dust and other allergens from the air, the most common types of airborne pollutants people want removed.
• Filter-based purification traps airborne particles by size exclusion. Air is forced through a filter and particles are physically captured by the filter.
• HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters can, by definition, remove at least 99.97% of 0.3-micrometer particles, and are usually more effective for particles which are larger or slightly smaller. They are effective down to 0.01 micrometers in many cases, but become very ineffective for particles smaller than 0.01 micrometer. HEPA purifiers which filter all the air going into a clean room must be arranged so that no air bypasses the HEPA filter. In dusty environments, a HEPA filter may follow an easily cleaned conventional filter (prefilter) which removes coarser impurities so that the HEPA filter does not need to be changed or cleaned frequently.
• Activated carbon is a highly porous material that can absorb volatile chemicals on a molecular basis, but does not remove the larger particles. It is normally used in conjunction with other filter technology, especially with HEPA.
• Photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) uses short-wave ultraviolet light (UVC), commonly used for sterilization, to kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses. Independent research confirms its effectiveness against molds, bacteria, and viruses. A germicidal UV lamp is most effective at destroying micro-organisms. PCO is not a filtering technology, as it does not trap or remove particles. It is usually coupled with other filtering technologies for air purification. UV sterilization bulbs must be replaced about once a year.
• Electrostatic precipitators are HVAC air cleaners which can remove particles from air effectively if used properly.
• Ionizer purifiers use charged electrical surfaces or needles to generate electrically charged ions. Ions attach to airborne particles which are then electrostatically attracted to a charged collector plate. This mechanism produces trace amounts of ozone and other oxidants as by-products. Most ionizers produce less than 0.05 ppm of ozone, an industrial safety standard. There are two major subdivisions: the fanless ionizer and fan-based ionizer. Fanless ionizers are noiseless and use little power, but are less efficient at air purification. Fan-based ionizers clean and distribute air much faster but they can be a bit noisy.
• Ozone generators produce ozone, and are sometimes sold as whole house air cleaners. Unlike ionizers, ozone generators are designed to produce significant amounts of ozone, a strong oxidant gas which can oxidize many other chemicals. The only safe use of ozone generators is in unoccupied rooms, utilizing "shock treatment" commercial ozone generators that produce over 3000 mg of ozone per hour. Restoration contractors use these types of ozone generators to remove smoke odors after fire damage, musty smells after flooding, and toxic molds.
“Dust mites in the air cause allergic reactions in an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the population, and have been linked to the development of childhood asthma.”
— Professor Yogi Goswami,
Director University of Florida Solar Energy
& Energy Conversion Laboratory
“Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems.”
— U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
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