We spend most of the time between four walls. Those at home, those of work, those of the shopping center … even the interior of the vehicles form an everyday scenario for many people. We think they are “protective barriers”, and that after them we are safe from contaminants, but the truth is that it is not always the case, because this invisible enemy also sneaks inside the buildings. The air in the kitchen, living room, bedroom, gym, and office can be dirty, and that is a risk factor for health. In fact, the World Health Organization has estimated the number of deaths attributable to indoor pollution in the world at 2 million annually and has classified the phenomenon as the tenth risk factor avoidable in importance for the health of the general population.
The increase in nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ) is related to the higher frequency of night cough, wheezing and use of bronchodilator medication, both in children and adults. A list that adds the risk of lung cancer. A Spanish study has shown that the chances of developing this disease are doubled in those exposed to high doses of radon. In fact, it is the second cause of lung cancer, after tobacco.
“Infections of the lower respiratory tract in children, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and respiratory tract tumors in adults are the main pathologies to which we expose ourselves,” warns pneum ologist Isabel Urrutia. The coordinator of the Environment area of the Spanish Society of Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery also stresses the importance of affecting internal contamination in people with asthma.
A higher risk for asthmatics, children and the elderly
According to an article published in the journal Bronconeumología, the levels of contamination measured in offices and in homes are usually well below the permissible limits for industrial environments. But it is also true that, due to humidity and temperature conditions, the perception of air quality may worsen. And everything adds up.
Furniture and cleaning products generate compounds such as formaldehyde, which has been linked to cancer
“Although it can not be said that the danger of indoor pollution equals that of the outside world, it should not be underestimated, especially those more sensitive to pollutants such as those suffering from asthma, or groups such as children and the elderly. “, says Urrutia. And, while we are all very clear about where the enemy is when we set foot on the street, do we know what are the pollutants that deteriorate the quality of the air at home and what are its sources?
Chemical contamination is one of the main threats. “They are combustion products with poor ventilation or poor maintenance, such as heating appliances, stoves, stoves, refrigerators and gas ovens, all of which release carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen monoxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO 2). ), sulfur dioxide (SO 2 ) and particles (PM) “.
Among all, the expert highlights carbon monoxide, “a colorless and odorless gas that is produced by the incomplete combustion of substances containing carbon.” Portable heaters that use kerosene, wood chimneys, boilers or heaters in poor condition are the sources responsible for releasing this substance. On the other hand, “households where biomass continues to be used (wood, coal, grass, crop residues …) are also spaces where these same substances can reduce air quality,” he says.
Toxicity of furniture and microorganisms
Not only a badly damaged heater or a damaged boiler are sources of contamination, but it can also be many of the furniture that surrounds us. According to Urrutia, “the furniture of the rooms and the cleaning products are a source of emission of volatile organic compounds that include formaldehyde, benzene or toluene”. Formaldehyde has been classified as a human carcinogen, and its presence is common in plywood, panels, and agglomerates used in the furniture industry. This substance also appears during the first months of aging of some varnishes, so that the emission can be maintained over time.
Benzene is not a better compound. It is also a carcinogenic product whose main sources are paints, resins, oils, plastics, detergents, and tobacco smoke. Neither in the office do we get rid of the presence of indoor pollution. Being surrounded by computers, printers, and photocopiers do not favor the maintenance of good air quality, quite the contrary. According to the expert, “both office and office materials, corrective liquids or photographic solutions are sources of volatile organic compounds.”
Fungi and dust mites can be detected by symptoms such as fever, headache, cough and throat irritation
Other sources are hidden behind living organisms. Fever, headache, throat irritation, cough, wheezing and chest tightness. It is the picture that could describe a person chronically exposed to biological contaminants. The cause is fungi, dust mites, and endotoxins produced by bacteria such as Legionella. This microorganism is a specialist in straining in cooling towers, humidifiers and shower heads, and is capable of causing epidemic outbreaks. This situation is avoidable if a thorough cleaning of the ventilation systems is maintained.
Another of the old acquaintances of the biological contamination are the dust mites and the fungi, present especially in the bed and bath linen, in the carpets and in the furniture. It has been shown that moisture and heat promote their growth and can be found in showers and basements with high levels of humidity, as well as in the water of humidifiers and their filters. Like the rest of the sources of indoor pollution, we can minimize exposure to sources that pollute the air. In this sense, Urrutia advises both to maintain good ventilation in the home and to avoid turning on the heating, stoves or stoves in poor condition.