Indoor air pollution a silent killer
Today’s guest columnist and in the upcoming series on Cleaning up The mess is architect DAVID FOJO, who holds a master’s degree in environmental design from Yale University. Fojo claims that indoor air pollution, a silent killer, is rated as between seven times and 70 times worse than outdoor air pollution.
Besides the very high exposure levels to EMFs that we are subjected to, we are also indecently exposed to many other toxins in our indoor environment, especially in our air and water and visually. With the “advances” of modem building technology, healthy fresh air in our homes has unfortunately become a rarity. Dozens of major studies have been done on the quality of air in modern homes by fairly reliable organisations such as the World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency. Depending on which study you read, indoor air pollution is rated as between seven times and 70 times worse than outdoor air pollution, which as you know is bad enough to begin with.
The quality of the air we breathe is as important to our health as the quality of the food we eat. The average person consumes approximately three pounds of food daily, and breathes in approximately 33 pounds of air. It is good that people these days are becoming more aware that they should have fresh, pure food but they should be equally concerned with having fresh, pure air to breathe. Indoor air pollution is caused by two things, the creation of toxic gases and particles within the building, and not taking in enough fresh air from outside to replace air that has become toxic or stale. Many synthetic materials such as paints, wallpapers, upholstery, drapes, chipboard and especially carpeting, give off toxic gases. Formaldehyde is one of the most common fumes encountered since 50 per cent of all cloth material is treated with it, as well as numerous other building materials.
At last count, there were almost 100,000 synthetic chemicals manufactured worldwide, many of them used in the production of building materials. These chemicals tend to out-gas into the indoor environment, mostly during the first year of installation, and gradually tapering off over several years. Some carpeting has been found to out-gas slightly even after 20 years. Mold and mildew can also present health problems in the humid tropics, in poorly ventilated homes and in air conditioning ducts. You may have read of the many buildings closed and lawsuits as a result of mold and mildew infestations, which have caused or exacerbated asthma, allergic reactions, dizziness and other symptoms. Also implicated in causing health problems is the synthetic dust found in most homes.
Gone are the days of “healthy” dust composed of organic materials like earth and particles of decaying leaves that actually supplied us with micro-nutrients. These days house dust is comprised to a large extent of minute particles of synthetic, non-digestible cloth material like rayon and polyester. Look at your dust in the sun sometime, and you may notice it is multi-coloured, another interesting and visually stimulating “benefit” of modern technology. These synthetics stay in the lungs for as long as five to 10 years. Asbestos, which is a proven deadly carcinogen, stays in the lungs for 20 to 30 years. Even the balance between negative and positive ions in the air of the modern home has been adversely affected by the use of synthetic materials.
Synthetic materials attract and hold longer, much larger static charges than natural materials like cotton. The static charge held by synthetic materials can be 10,000 volts per metre or more. Besides affecting the physiology of those near these materials this de-ionizes the air by “sucking up” all of the beneficial negative ions around, and most of the positive ions as well. There is considerable evidence that this makes the air less life-supporting. All of the above air pollutants build up in buildings because of the lack of fresh air supplied by most air-conditioning systems. The vast majority of residential AC systems supply no fresh air at all, and when combined with modern well-sealed windows can create indoor air that could almost be better described as chemical fog, without too much exaggeration.
To be continued...