Indoor Air Pollution May Be Affecting Your Health

South Jersey truly reflects the idea of “work hard, play hard,” and we strive to be the best that we can be. We eat, play, work out, and work long hours. We are a community that is continually on the move. While we know the hazards of living a full life, we aren’t always aware of the ones we surround ourselves with every day.

The home we live in, and the air we breathe, may be filled with harmful particles that can have lasting effects. Indoor and outdoor air are different components altogether as they have different factors. Some of them can overlap, but the effects are different. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in and around buildings is something we accidentally tend to overlook. But what are they? How can we tell what is and what isn’t harmful in these indoor environments? And why should we care?

Visible and Invisible Indoor Air Pollution

Could indoor air pollution be affecting your family’s health?

Visible Indoor Air Pollution: Mold and Dampness

You can see some visible pollutants with the naked eye. Mold is one of these. While this might be obvious to some, mold and dampness can create health problems in the future. Mold lets you know that there is visible air pollution that you and your family are breathing in when you are inside your home.

Mold is a fungus that grows in dark and damp places. It is hard to spot at times because mold doesn’t always appear in plain sight. Mold can be found in small, dark areas such as a crawl space or the crevice in a basement. You can also find mold under the floorboards of a home or wrapped within the home’s foundation. Mold growth can range in all sizes, large and small, and the damage can be just as lethal. Mold is known to cause a variety of respiratory health problems if you don’t remove it from your home.

Even a well-maintained bathroom can be harboring mold due to dampness

Dampness indoors, however, is even more detrimental because it can promote the growth of mold and then some. Besides breaking down the integrity of any structure, dampness can create dust mites, cockroaches, bacteria, and viruses. These will create their own set of problems in terms of visible air pollution leading to (preventable) illnesses.

Invisible Indoor Air Pollution: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

South Jersey is filled with art! It’s a place of music, dancing, photography, and painting! We love collecting art as well as creating our visionary works of art. Some of our masterpieces create fumes, however, and those can be just as harmful as a mold to our lungs and health.

When painting a room, or a picture on a canvas, the liquid gives off a gas, and depending on the type of pigments and the durability of the paint (latex, primer, base) these can mix creating a unique odor. This odor is invisible to air pollution. These are all part of the world of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

We protect our hands from cleaning products, but what about our lungs?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are lurking inside in more places than you might think. They can be created from solids, liquids, or gases, and sometimes the aroma they leave behind (if they do leave one) is lovely and not harsh. They can range from disinfectants and household cleaners to aerosol cans like that hairspray left in your bathroom cabinet. Even the burning of fossil fuels can cause harmful gases to fill the air.

Then, of course, there is Asbestos. A silent, deadly fibrous being. At the end of the 19th century, it became a popular insulator used in buildings by builders and contractors. It would be years before people realize the damage that it could do to the lungs. Even today people are still discovering older buildings that still have it as their insulation. Accidentally inhaling these tiny fibers into your lungs can cause long-term, permanent negative health effects on the human body.

There are more variables out there, and we even wrote an article about everyone’s favorite indoor air pollution source – allergens that wreak havoc!

Health Risks of Indoor Air Pollution

There are both short-term and long-term effects that indoor air pollution can cause if not addressed and remedied.

The immediate ones can be a bit trickier to diagnose. Showing signs early is a sure thing to confirm exposure, but what if there aren’t any symptoms?

Factors depend on an individual’s age, whether they have any pre-existing conditions, or their sensitivity; which is also a variable in itself as sensitivity can vary from person to person. Sometimes sensitivities won’t always be a sign of short-term exposure to indoor air pollution. This is because sensitivities can be a condition that develops over long exposure times.

Short-term effects of exposure to indoor air pollution might include eyes, nose, or throat irritation. They can include headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. You may become sluggish and physical activity could take more of a toll on your body.

Feeling exhausted and sluggish could be a sign of indoor air pollution

Long-term effects come from long-term exposure. Sometimes it can lend itself to health problems like sleep apnea which creates an environment where an individual has a harder time breathing at night and being able to enjoy quality sleep. This is something that takes quite a toll on daytime responsibilities and activities. While sleep apnea is not something to be taken lightly, long-term exposure can cause even more serious health concerns.

Years of exposure to indoor air pollution can cause respiratory disease, and heart disease, and is linked to the development of cancer. It can be severely debilitating or even fatal. It’s not easy to understand what will happen to a person because just like short-term effects, each individual will have a different reaction, and response, to the pollutants around them.

We are What We Breathe

According to the American Lung Association, we inhale 3,500 gallons of air a day. That’s a lot of hot air! Of all the people with known respiratory problems, 94% of them are caused by pollutants in the air. While these particles floating through the air are damaging to us as adults, they are far more detrimental to the health of a child. Children inhale more particles for their size than teens or adults. The impact can be considerably more substantial to tiny humans than it would be for us as grownups.

With all of this new information, how are you going to keep your home healthy and avoid the causes of indoor air pollution?

The key is proper ventilation for your home. Air cleaners and purifiers help to remove the harmful particles that are floating through the air your family is breathing.

Healthy air is important for a healthy home in South Jersey

Air conditioners can also help by allowing the circulation of air through your household. Filters and air cleaners, purifiers, and even air conditioners can be vital components when it comes to filtering cleaner air through your home and keeping the air fresh and less stagnant.

While some visible pollutants, such as mold and dampness, do require a bit of elbow grease and hard work to remove, others such as dust mites and VOC fumes, can dissipate with a high ventilation system in place.

Just as there are immediate signs of pollutants in the air, there are also immediate signs of cleaner air. You might notice you have an easier time breathing, you aren’t coughing as much, and you may even have a renewed sense of energy.

The benefits of purifying your air give you a chance at healthier lungs and a healthier future.

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