Indoor Air Quality, Health Implications and the Official EPA Opinion

February 28, 2018


The quality of the environment people live in is a topic that’s been highly discussed during the past few years, due to the concerns of many specialists in the domain. It is well-known that pollution represents the contamination of the environment with different materials that can affect both human health and the functions of existent ecosystems. This can be the result of natural causes (e. g. volcanic eruptions) or the result of various human actions. During the industrial revolution, pollution became an alarming obstacle in the path of humanity. Besides the many types of contamination existent in the environment, one has a larger impact on people’s lives: air pollution.

Through the air, pollutant particles are allowed to be deposited on the surface of the skin. Once these particles are resting on the skin they will be inevitably inhaled, penetrating into the airways and eventually reaching the lungs. Pollutants can act as both external and internal body irritants and their effect cannot be circumvented easily. This is the reason why signaling the changes that intervene in people’s daily lives these days is paramount.

Contrary to popular belief, air pollution is not strictly related to the exterior environment, but it has a further expenditure: indoor air quality. People spend most of their times inside their homes, believing that simply airing out the house will solve the issue. Both the indoor and outdoor air contains various type of pollutants and each has different effects on one’s health. The truth is, the intricacies of this topic are far more complicated than that.

A health perspective in the case of low-quality indoor air

There are several things that are worth discussing related to the damages that a low-quality indoor air can do to the human body. Even though most people are not aware of the implications of the air they are breathing, the truth is it plays a huge role in living healthily. Indoor air pollution is difficult to trace, even when checking up with your doctor. The symptoms it triggers are very diverse, and they could be easily mistaken for other diseases’ signs. The effects of living in an unhealthy environment can be noticed either immediately or during a longer period of time. Exposing yourself to indoor air pollution can lead to serious conditions. The principal symptoms that appear in the case of air pollution include:

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Air, through its chemical composition and diverse physical properties, can influence the way your body functions. The temperature, humidity, radiation,and pressure of the air surrounding you are all factors that can change the health perspective. Direct effects are the noticeable changes that occur as a result of exposure to pollutants and these are not individual. They can extend to a whole group of persons that live in the same polluted area. These changes can include increasing the overall mortality, morbidity, psychopathological matters and so on. A body that’s fully loaded with pollutant agents present in the environment is going to suffer dramatically in the long run. The appearance of pathological phenomena is inevitable if the air quality inside the place you spend most of your time is low. Pathological changes can also be determined in the case of repeated (not continuous) exposure to harmful agents. Thus, a person who’s working in a polluted environment, even though the air at home is healthy, might encounter the same type of changes.

What EPA says?

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) ran a few studies regarding indoor air quality. The conclusions were referring to modalities and strategies to improve the air quality in homes, given the fact that the effects of long exposure to pollutants are more and more observable. EPA brought to the attention of people strategies such source control, improved ventilation and investing in air cleaners. As long as people know the source of certain allergens they can reduce emissions by getting rid of it. That’s what source control consists of. It is a very simple, yet effective method and it is also a cost-efficient strategy. Each home can opt for source control when they consider the indoor air quality unbearable. Increasing ventilation has both advantages and disadvantages. The options depend on the area a person is living in and the air quality testing results. If the air outside is even more dangerous than the air indoors, another option should be taken into account. EPA recommends investing in energy-efficient, mechanical systems that are able to purify the existent air rather than replacing it with outdoor air, which can be just as apollutant.

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Types of pollutants present indoors

Irritant pollutants are the ones that affect the ocular mucosa and the entire respiratory system. This group includes various non-toxic powders, gases,and vapors (sulfur dioxide, oxidizing substances, chlorine, ammonia,and others). Such pollutants appear from different combustion processes. In the same category, fibrous pollutants produce aggressive changes. The people that are exposed to fibrous pollutants the most are the ones working in the industrial environment (the use of silicon dioxide, asbestos, cobalt, barium,and others). Intense indoor air pollution in this environment will eventually lead to pulmonary fibrotic changes (various types of cancer).

Allergen pollutants are mostly natural and include house dust, a feared allergen that rests in everyone’s homes. Pollen, fungi and different insects can produce respiratory and cutaneous allergic reactions. Yet indoor air can also be polluted with artificial allergens coming from the atmosphere due to the releases of chemical industries (plastics, pharmaceutical, insecticide etc.). The dust coming from industrial residues and waste can easily reach into people’s homes and pollute the air, this being the reason why airing out is not sufficient for a healthier environment. The first step towards checking if the air you are breathing is healthy or not is testing the air quality in that respective area. For instance, studies have shown that air quality testing in Toronto is a necessity because of the serious health problems that occur in this location, all because of Toronto’s air quality health index.