True or false: According to the EPA, the air inside the typical home is just as polluted as the air just outside.
Congratulations to this week's winner, Sharena Conte of East Patchogue, NY, who answered this
quiz challenge correctly and will receive an EarthShare reusable bag
and other fun environmental goodies.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, air inside the average home is two to five times more polluted than the air outside, largely due to toxic household cleaners and pesticides. Read on to learn what might be contaminating your home and how you can clear the air. >> MORE
Given that we spend approximately 90 percent of our time indoors, exposure to toxins may be greater inside your home or office than outside—which may be hard to imagine if you live in a large or industrial city.
Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
According to the EPA, indoor pollutants that release gases or particles into the air are the primary source of poor indoor air quality, which can be exacerbated by poor air circulation and ventilation, as well as hot, humid temperatures. Pollutants themselves can be emitted from a number of sources, including:
And while increased ventilation may reduce some indoor emissions, it’s important to note that some materials produce pollutants that literally hang in the air. For example, smoking, using malfunctioning appliances, and repeated use of some cleaning agents can impact the air long after you’re finished with them.
Health Effects of Indoor Air Pollution
As we’ve noted before, exposure to harmful toxins such as those found in pesticides, can lead to serious health problems, including organ defects in fetuses; asthma, attention deficit and hyperactivity, autism, and leukemia in children; and breast cancer in preadolescents.
The EPA’s report on indoor air pollution states that some building occupants—such as office workers or those living in apartments—experience symptoms that don’t fit the pattern of any particular illness and are thus hard to pin down.
Called sick building syndrome, people might complain of a dry or burning sensation in their eyes, nose or throat; fatigue; headache or nausea; irritability and forgetfulness. Serious, long-term illnesses such as Legionnaires’ disease, respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer can also develop.
Reducing Indoor Air Pollution
The EPA has a helpful checklist to help you take the appropriate steps if you feel that your office or apartment complex may be susceptible to indoor air pollution. These steps include:
Similarly, the EPA lists a number of ways to pinpoint pollution sources in your home or office with steps to reduce exposure, including:
While we talk a lot about reducing our carbon footprint and sustaining a healthy, pollution-free environment, don’t forget to include your home or office building into the mix. Be proactive about using non-toxic cleaning, construction and office materials to safeguard those around you and protect the environment.
Related resources from EarthShare and our members:
Greening the Office Cleaners, EarthShare
Facts about Fireplaces, EarthShare
Alternatives to Toxic Pest Control, Beyond Pesticides
How-to Rid Homes and Offices of Pesticides, Beyond Pesticides
Pass Up the Poison Plastic, Center for Health, Environment and Justice
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