Editorials

Indoor Air Pollution: the Invisible Threat

Everyone knows about the threat that pollution poses. Emissions from cars or big factories spread pollutants that cause the greenhouse effect through smog. Big cities like Los Angeles and Beijing are especially suffering from this smog that causes unhealthy air quality. Another common form of pollution is environmental pollution. It is made up of hazardous materials and chemicals that make their way into the environment and cause significant harm to plant and animal life.

A form of pollution that is pretty new to many people is indoor air pollution. There are many different means by which indoor air quality (IAQ) can be polluted and cause dangerous

sicknesses or even death. The most common form of indoor air pollution can be found in undeveloped countries where people still cook and heat with open fire. According to The World Health Organization, this kind of indoor pollution leads to approximately 4.3 million deaths

each year.

While this might not seem threatening to citizens of developed countries, there are other habits that cause indoor air pollution, the most common being through smoking. Smoking indoors is a serious threat to people’s health and can cause asthma, heart disease, strokes, impaired lung function, and even lung cancer.

Smoking indoors was proven to be such a great threat that 34 states created laws that prohibit people from smoking indoors. The Florida Clean Indoor Act was enacted in 1985 to protect people from secondhand smoking (SHS). According to Tobacco Free Florida and

Florida Health, tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, of which 80 have been proven to cause cancer. These chemicals caused an estimated 2.5 million deaths of non-smokers through secondhand smoking in the 20 years before the law was created.

Even though smoking is the worst kind of indoor air pollution in the United States, it is not the only one. According to Forbes magazine and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 90% of their time indoors, even though the air quality is far worse inside than it is outside in most cases.

Indoors, many sources of pollutants such as gas from cooking, building materials, household cleaning products, furniture, insulation containing asbestos, and moisture from wet or damp carpet often accumulate. Also, a central heating and cooling system might contribute to poor air circulation indoors.

The less outdoor air enters a home, the more likely it is for pollutants to accumulate to levels that can cause health issues. Many homes are designed and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air entering and leaving a home. Without sufficient air circulation throughout a home or apartment, when outdoor air enters, health risks increase.

One sickness that can be caused by indoor air pollution is asthma. Asthma can result in difficulty when breathing and is caused by an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity. Mold is a common pollutant that can cause symptoms of asthma. Usually, too much humidity or wet areas can cause indoor mold to grow. The mold spores can cause allergic reactions or asthma attacks when inhaled or touched.

Indoor air quality problems are not limited to homes, as they are also often found in workplaces that are inadequately ventilated. Signs of indoor pollution can especially be found in large buildings that run on one big air conditioning system. Problems arise when the filtration systems are not changed or cleaned on a regular basis and when the outside airflow is insufficient.

Students are confronted with indoor pollution every single day. From the classroom, to the cafeteria, and to dorm rooms, you encounter indoor pollution. There are no windows to open in many of these facilities, causing the entire airflow to rely solely on the air conditioning system. Students put a lot of faith into the maintenance staffs that change the filters and ensure that enough outdoor air is entering their buildings.

“My freshman year, I had about five sinus infections throughout the school year when I lived in Henderson. I am allergic to mold and I think that was the problem. The air was always moist and humid, which caused some things in my room to be damp all the time,” stated junior Jennifer Litzen.

“I highly recommend getting an air purifier/filter because you don’t see or know about the kind of stuff you’re breathing into your body. If you get sick a lot, it might be due to the air quality inside and the dust and mold that is hard to prevent,” continued Litzen.

Since this problem has only been recognized and proven in the last few years, the technology is still continuing to develop. There are many companies that specialize in producing furniture and carpeting that are less likely to contribute to indoor air pollution or succumb to mold. Also, many new architects are designing homes with better air circulation and ways of letting outdoor air in.

These solutions do not help students that can’t change the furniture or design of their classrooms or dorms, though. When allergies or symptoms of asthma occur, it might help to purchase an air purifier to ventilate dorm rooms. Air purifiers help to reduce contaminants and dust from the air, which improves the air quality overall. There are also products on the market that contain a UV light system that kills germs that spread throughout heating and cooling systems.

Advancements are being made to improve indoor air quality, but health problems due to pollution will continue to threaten people everywhere until a solution is created to remedy the issue entirely.

Categories: Editorials

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