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INDOOR AIR QUALITY -
PROTECTING OUR HOME ENVIRONMENT

The quality of the air we breathe impacts our health. According to a recentreport published by the American Lung Association, more than 142 millionAmericans - 75% of the nation's population - are breathing unhealthy amounts of air pollution. Dangerous as polluted outdoor air can be to health,polluted indoor air actually poses a greater health risk. Environmental Protection Agency studies have shown that levels of air pollutants indoors maybe anywhere from 2 to 5 times greater than outdoors, and in some cases more than 100 times greater. Research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health maybe greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of air in the indoor environment within a building or aninstitution or commercial facility.

Factors that influence IAQ include the following.

  • Inadequate supply of outside air

  • Contamination arising from sources within the building (e.g., combustion products including carbon monoxide and environmental tobacco smoke; volatileorganic compounds from building materials, fabric furnishings, carpet,adhesives, fresh paint, new paneling, and cleaning products; ozone from office equipment; mold from water damage).

  • Contamination from outside the building (e.g., ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter) through air intakes, infiltration, open doors, and windows.

  • Microbial contamination of ventilation systems or building interiors.Poor indoor air quality in your home, school or workplace can cause a number ofhealth problems, such as asthma, allergies, coughing, wheezing, dizziness,nausea, headaches, inability to concentrate, short-term memory loss andhyperactivity. Children may be especially susceptible.While there is no universal solution, there are complementary ways to controlaspects of our indoor air quality. Usually the most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to minimize or eliminate the use of products andmaterials that cause indoor pollution, employ good hygiene practices to minimize biological and chemical contaminants and use good housekeeping practices to control particles, dust, pollen, bacteria and mold.

    Recent studies have found that using a quality air purifier can reduce the levelof allergens in your indoor air. Some air cleaners use an electrical charge that produces ozone, which manufacturers claim will "purify" the air. But ozonecan irritate the lungs, and is especially a problem for people with asthma. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Lung Association and CaliforniaAir Resources Board have recently warned against the use of ionic air purifiers because they generate and release unhealthy levels of ozone, in many cases equalto a stage one smog alert.

    HEPA air purifiers do not produce ozone and can effectively trap large and smallparticles. A True HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter can remove fromthe air at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns or larger. In hospital operating rooms,burn centers, laboratories and manufacturers of critical products like computerchips, where particle and bacteria free air is mandatory, HEPA filtrationsystems are used to remove bacteria and other airborne contaminants. HEPAfilters require no cleaning or maintenance to maintain efficiency, and studieshave proven that HEPA filters actually increase in efficiency with use overtheir 3 to 5 year life.

    Along with a HEPA filter to trap particles, an air purifier should containactivated carbon in order to remove noxious chemicals, gases, odors andvolatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause respiratory distress and longterm harm to health. Activated carbon is widely adopted by air purifiermanufacturers for the removal of gaseous pollutants. Activated carbon ischarcoal that has been treated with oxygen to open millions of small poresbetween the carbon atoms. These pores adsorb harmful gases and odors. Due to the large surface area of the carbon granules, carbon filters are excellent attrapping gases that pass through traditional particle filters.

    Controlling the home environment is a very important part of asthma and allergycare. In addition to seeing a doctor when there is a medical problem, it isimportant to reduce or eliminate as many allergy and asthma triggers from yourhome and office environment, as well as investing in a quality HEPA airpurifier to clean the air. Breathing clean indoor air promotes good health,more energy, better sleep and helps prevent chronic respiratory diseases laterin life, thereby living longer with a healthy lifestyle.

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