Saturday, December 18, 2010

Indoor Air Quality

If you’re like most people, when you worry about pollution, you think about the particles in the air outside. After all, that’s where cars drive, dust blows, and factories do their dirty work. But air-quality experts know the grimy truth—when it comes to air pollution, your lungs may have more to fear indoors than they do outside.

If this seems contradictory, you need to take a closer look at the environment where you spend most of your time. Items that fill many modern homes, such as carpeting, furniture, paint, and cleaning supplies, can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In addition, biological sources such as dander from your pets, skin flakes from your body, and spores of mold contribute to indoor air pollution. And because modern homes are surprisingly airtight, particles can build up to concentrations you’d never face outdoors. Add to this the fact that the average person spends 90 percent of the day inside, and you can see why your lungs have more to worry about from a relaxing day at home than a walk around the block.

So what can you do to improve indoor air quality and reduce your exposure to PM2.5 particles? Here are some proven techniques:

• Ventilate. Opening a window is one of the easiest ways to clear out indoor air pollutants. Even without a strong breeze, built-up pollutants will naturally spread out and drift out of an open window. Of course, this technique isn’t as useful on a hot and smoggy day, or if you live near a pollution source (say, a few feet from a heavily trafficked road). In cases like these, you might get more mileage out of an air exchanger, which brings in outside air, filters it, and uses it to heat or cool your house.

• Use exhaust fans. Stovetop cooking creates plenty of potential lung irritants, and our hot, steamy showers generate the humidity that allows mold to thrive. To cut down on these sources of indoor air pollution, make sure you have an exhaust fan in every kitchen and bathroom. Use the kitchen exhaust fan while cooking, and use the bathroom exhaust fan while cleaning and after bathing.

• Air out. Air-quality experts recommend that you air out problem items before you bring them into your house. This includes dry-cleaned clothes and new carpet, both of which release hefty quantities of VOCs. (New carpet will probably continue releasing VOCs 2 or 3 years after installation, but you can cut down on the intense initial exposure by giving it a couple of days to air out—or better yet, by going with hard floor coverings, like wood.)

One common indoor air pollutant is the residue left from cigarette smoke. Health researchers have coined the term third-hand smoke to describe the toxic particles that remain long after the visible smoke has drifted away, clinging to furniture, carpeting, upholstery, and clothing. New, but somewhat controversial, research suggests that exposure to this residue can be damaging. It’s a particular concern for young children, who are likely to crawl along particle-laden carpets.

A regular dose of fresh air keeps your indoor environment healthy. Ventilation is particularly important when you do something that releases large amounts of indoor pollutants, such as painting (even with low-VOC paints) and using strong cleaning products (like those you use to clean the bathroom, floor, oven, and so on).

Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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