The air we breathe

Discussion on health consequences of air particulates

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The air we breathe

Postby Wilberforce » Mon Nov 11, 2013 8:16 pm

The air we breathe
November 11, 2013
frank gehr

The air we breathe
Sources of pollution outside the house are immediately apparent. Emissions from cars and factories, for example, are often visible and may even smell. We like to think, in contrast, that our homes are havens of pure, clean air. But our homes have changed. Double glazing is more common and drafty windows and doors less common. We seal up the house for energy efficiency by draft-proofing and insulation. Central heating has largely replaced open fires, which create a draft of their own, continually drawing new fresh air into the home.
Since those of us in industrialized countries spend somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of our time indoors, we increasingly rely on the quality of indoor air. In many houses it is not being mixed regularly with air from outdoors, fresh or otherwise. In addition, new materials for furnishing and decoration are not always the inert substances we believe they are. Many substances send gaseous molecules into the air in a process called “outgassing.” Although some of these are associated only with the installation of, say, a carpet, others—such as the glues in particle board furniture or urea-formaldehyde foam—continue to emit gases for years.

Paralleling this change in the chemical environment of our homes is a rise in a range of diseases and conditions such as allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Whether or not you are affected by particular chemicals you are exposed to in your home or work life, such as pesticides or formaldehyde, depends on a number of factors, including your immune system (which may be compromised by lack of sleep, infection, or stress) and the degree of exposure. People can become used to their body’s response to chemicals, but only for so long.
The numerous potential sources of indoor air pollution include cigarette smoke, combustion by-products, biological pollutants, volatile organic compounds, and a number of other chemical pollutants, such as heavy metals and asbestos.


In the 1970s, the term “sick building” was coined to describe the situation where a group of people occupying a building reported a range of symptoms associated with being in the building. Typical complaints include lethargy and fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, irritation of mucous membranes, sensitivity to odors, eye and nasal irritation, rhinitis (runny nose), nasal congestion, and feelings of general malaise. Theories as to the causes include air contamination, poor design, inadequate maintenance, and faulty ventilation. Low levels of pollutants may act together; humidity may be a factor. In 1984, the World Health Organization reported that as many as 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide “may have generated excessive complaints related to indoor air quality.”

Tobacco smoke is unhealthy for all
Cigarette smoke is a complex mixture of more than 4,000 chemicals, some in gas form and others as solid particles. Smoke at home can cause rhinitis, pharyngitis (inflammation of the throat), a congested nose, persistent cough, headaches, wheezing and irritation of the conjunctiva (the membrane that covers the white of the eye and lines the eyelids). In addition, it can worsen respiratory conditions. Children—even more so, babies—are particularly vulnerable to problems from tobacco smoke. The smoke can trigger the onset of asthma and make an existing asthma condition more severe and more difficult to control. Long-term exposure to tobacco smoke is linked with breathing and lung disease, as well as exacerbated respiratory and cardiovascular disease and changes in the body’s immune system.
FRESH AIR Place a few slices of lemon in a shallow dish of water to rid a room of the smell of cigarette smoke.
Increased ventilation helps but it does not eliminate the health risks associated with tobacco smoke. Family members may be less exposed if you insist that smokers go outside to smoke. Some high-efficiency air cleaners can remove some of the particles in tobacco smoke, but most cannot remove the gaseous pollutants.

Combustion by-products
When we burn fuel to produce heat or light, the combustion of that fuel also produces by-products, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, soot, formaldehyde, and hydrocarbons, such as butane, propane, and benzene.

You might think only of a smoky fire, but all heating devices produce combustion by-products to some degree—even a state-of-the-art gas cooker. Most modern heating devices have built-in safety mechanisms, but ancient or faulty devices or those used inappropriately can poison the air.
Wood stoves and open fires Both wood and coal smoke contain numerous pollutants, including carbon monoxide. Most of these by-products should go up the chimney, but in the case of inefficient and poorly designed flues, some may enter the room. Wood smoke also contains carcinogens, while coal smoke contains sulfur dioxide—once responsible for city smog. Open fireplaces are romantic, but wasteful of energy and polluting. Sealed units, such as sealed combustion stoves, are more efficient, safer, and also environmentally cleaner, especially if you burn matured, dry wood.
Gas appliances These appliances for cooking, hot water, and central heating produce carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, small amounts of formaldehyde, and sulfur dioxide. Old models with pilot lights or faulty burners produce more toxins than newer, well maintained ones.
Kerosene (paraffin) heaters These heaters release numerous noxious gases and much moisture and are not recommended for long-term use. It is essential to keep a window open or ensure other ventilation while they burn.
Miscellaneous burners Even oil lamps, incense burners, candles, and aromatherapy lamps produce combustion by-products.
Some of these by-products, such as carbon monoxide, are particularly poisonous to the elderly, fetuses, and people with cardiovascular or lung disease, and are fatal in high concentrations. Carbon monoxide poisoning sometimes mimics flu.

• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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