Air Pollution Top 5 Health Risk
to come up with another problem that affects more people than
indoor air pollution.” - Brian Leaderer, Professor of Environmental
Health Sciences. Saturday Reader
While SARS, Anthrax and Small
Pox get the headlines, indoor air pollution….otherwise
known as mold, fungus, dust mites and everyday bacteria have quietly
become a major threat to human health. According to the Environmental
Protection Agency, indoor air can be 100 times more polluted than
outdoor air. The EPA rates Indoor Air Quality as one of the top
five most urgent environmental risks to public health. And, unlike
outdoor air pollution, the problem is not restricted to the large
metropolitan areas like New York and L.A. It doesn’t matter
whether you live in the country or the city, you are at risk from
indoor air pollution. And the culprit is your home.
Home. Sick Home.
Today’s tighter, better-insulated homes limit natural ventilation
and trap indoor air contaminants inside. If too little outdoor
air enters a dwelling or office, microorganisms can collect to
levels that pose health and comfort problems. Without sufficient
ventilation or air changes, the environment in homes can reach
dangerous pollution levels. Certain types of air pollution thrive
indoors and are especially bad for humans. Common airborne contaminants
such as bacteria, mold, viruses, fungi, and pet dander can aggravate
allergies and asthma and cause illness and disease.
“Homes with hot-air heating
and central air have more of a likelihood of creating problems
because they circulate the stuff,” says Jeffrey May, author
of "My House is Killing Me: The Home Guide for Families with
Allergies and Asthma" and owner of J. May Home Inspections
Incorporated in Cambridge, Mass. The Wall Street Journal reports,
“Improved building practices are at least partly responsible
for the explosion in mold in the U.S. Things like vapor barriers
and heavy caulking, now required by building codes, give trapped
moisture no way to escape.” As a result, mold-related insurance
claims reached a record $2.5 billion last year alone.
You Are What You Breathe.
According to the American College of Allergists, one-half of all
illnesses are either caused or aggravated by poor indoor air quality.
Effects of poor indoor air quality that may show up after a single
exposure include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches,
dizziness and fatigue. Long-term effects include respiratory diseases,
heart disease, cancer, severe debilitation or even death. An important
fact: Over 65% of all infections and allergies are passed from
one person to the other through the air. The Detroit News reports,
“Approximately 65 million of us suffer from allergies, asthma
and other respiratory problems. Airborne contaminants can cause
diseases such as influenza, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.”
Outdoors, the sun’s rays
act as a natural outdoor air purification system, inhibiting the
growth and reproduction of allergy and disease-causing bacteria,
viruses, fungi & molds. Indoors, without fresh air and sunshine,
these pollutants flourish, threatening the health and comfort
of the inhabitants.
What about filters? Do
Standard fiber filters are designed to trap particulates such
as hair and dust and are ineffective in trapping germs, as most
particles are simply too small, passing through the porous filter.
And new, high efficiency (HEPA) style filters will only capture
airborne bacteria down to a certain size. Microorganisms, by definition,
are too small to be trapped by most filters and flow through the
system undeterred. “Half a million mold spores will fit
on the face of a dime,” according to a recent article in
the New York Times.
NC/Triangle Air Quality
The Triangle ranks 13th nationally among U.S. Metropolitan areas
with the worst ozone air pollution – American Lung Association
The State of North Carolina has
an entire division within the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources that studies and measures outdoor air quality, but no
one in that department is charged with the responsibility of monitoring
Inside Story: A guide to Indoor Air Quality”. Printed March
Wall Street Journal. “Wet Winter has homeowners scrambling
to fight mold: peering behind the walls” by June Fletcher.
March 7, 2003.
"UVGI Design Basics" HPAC. January 2000:100
NY Times. “The Turmoil Over Mold in Buildings” by
Denis Hevesi. March 23, 2003.
CNN.com. “Air pollution kills but, deaths can be prevented”.
August 30, 1999. Printed March 31, 2003.
The Detroit News. “An Air Purification System Could Help
Cut Down on Sickness…” by Glenn Haege. October 12,