You Are What You… Breathe?
If you think the air that you are breathing is perfectly fine, think again. There are some very nasty and dangerous pollutants that could be lurking around inside your home and around your property and community that you should be aware of, if only to use precautions to protect yourself from health risks.
Some of the air pollutants commonly found in and around your home include these:
Lead is a common pollutant often found in the air that can cause serious health repercussions. Lead may be a particular issue in older homes that have lead paint or pipes, which can lead to contamination of the home’s air and water supply. Lead is linked to causing issues with the nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system, and kidneys and can promote developmental delays.
Ozone is not so much a singular pollutant, but rather a chemical reaction and result of other chemicals and toxins getting together. Breathing in ozone is particularly risky for the elderly, children, and individuals with respiratory issues, such as asthma; ozone can also cause damage to vegetation, foliage, and natural ecosystems. Ozone may likely lurk in places like your garage, where car exhaust or stored chemicals could be present.
Particulate matter is used to describe the tiny bits of dust, debris, and liquid that could be in the air that you breathe. These could be a problem during home renovations, when dust and debris are created during refurbishing or following a fire when ash could be floating in the air. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues specific warnings regarding particulate matter that could enter the nose, throat, and lungs, causing serious health risks and complications.
Nitrogen oxides in the air are most commonly attributed to vehicle emissions. The EPA has gotten stricter regarding emission testing and decreasing nitrogen oxides produced by car manufacturers. Exposure to nitrogen oxides can cause inflammation of the airway, asthma, and respiratory distress in people of all ages.
Carbon monoxide is often a silent predator, and the odorless, colorless gas can cause fatality. Watch out for carbon monoxide in gas-powered appliances, your garage, and when idling your vehicle outside the home. At high levels, carbon monoxide cuts off oxygen to the body’s vital organs, including the heart and brain.
Sulfur dioxide is not likely something that you can control or reduce around the home; this pollutant is an emission commonly originating from industries, power plants, and fossil fuel combustion. The emissions from large ships and trains often contain sulfur dioxide, which then seeps into the air that everyone breathes. The pollutant embeds in the lungs, causing long-term respiratory issues such as emphysema, and even premature death.
While there may be little that you can do to prevent the sulfur oxides and emissions from power plants or passing vehicles, there are some things that you can do to improve the health and welfare of your family. Consider these strategies to clean up your air:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home.
- Have a contractor or plumber assess your home for lead in the plumbing, wiring, or paint.
- Frequently clean and clear your exhaust pipe of your vehicle to decrease carbon monoxide risks; this is especially relevant for those that live in climates where snow and ice can build up around your muffler.
- Contact an environmental lab for further tips.