The Little-Known Effects of Indoor Pollution

October 11, 2019

"Over 4 million deaths worldwide occur as a result of a toxic indoor environment."

In today’s live show, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, begins her two-part series on pollution, focusing on the lesser known dangers of indoor pollution. Learn how and why indoor pollution is responsible for millions of deaths worldwide — almost as much as outdoor pollution! Plus, find out which measures we should be taking now to help minimize the many health risks associated with indoor pollution.

Video Highlights

  • 02:27: Common Indoor Pollutants
  • 07:12: Effects of Indoor Pollution
  • 09:24: Methods To Improve Indoor Air Quality
  • 09:36: Use Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products
  • 11:31: Detection Is The Best Protection
  • 12:51: Get Gassy
  • 16:06: Clean Your Air
  • 22:48: Go Green
  • 31:47: Wrap-Up

We’re going to go over some important statistics about outdoor pollution in part 2. Outdoor pollution is a more serious problem than many of us may realize, but what may be most shocking is every year, 3.8 million people die as a result of indoor pollution.

That’s right, almost 4 million people die because the environment in which they live day in and day out is a health hazard! 

Common Indoor Pollutants

Some of the most common indoor air pollutants include:

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Radon
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Mold
  • Pet dander
  • Pesticides
  • Lead
  • Asbestos
  • Cleaning products
  • Fireplaces
  • Cooking

Did you know that cooking a roast meal can cause more toxic indoor air pollution than the outdoor air pollution currently found in most major cities?

One recent study examined the effects of cooking a Thanksgiving dinner that included roasted turkey and roasted Brussels sprouts. Researchers then measured the home environment for the presence of something called PM2.5, airborne particulate matter that is very fine and can easily enter your lungs and bloodstream. 

The levels proved to be through the roof and extremely unhealthy for two hours after cooking was completed. The presence of PM2.5 was at 200 micrograms per cubic meter. New York City’s levels are typically around 10 micrograms per cubic meter. Isn’t that interesting?

Along the same lines, using fuels like coal, charcoal, wood, and even animal dung for indoor cooking contributes to a large number of indoor air quality fatalities worldwide, especially in poorer countries. These types of solid fuels produce toxins and smoke that are released into the home environment and cause health issues or even death.

Luckily, there has been a global shift from the use of these solid fuels to more modern energy sources like gas and electricity, which has caused the number of related deaths to go down. 

Effects of Indoor Pollution 

Issues that can arise as a result of toxic air within your home, office, or work environment, include:

Sick Building Syndrome

One way to determine if your indoor environment might be the source of your symptoms is to monitor what has become known as “sick building syndrome.” Sick building syndrome occurs when you feel sick after spending time in a particular space, and then you feel better once you leave that place. 

Methods To Improve Indoor Air Quality

Use Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products

Certain cleaning products are made with smog-forming chemicals that evaporate into the air when you use them. Choose cleaning products that either do not evaporate easily into the environment or use them in such a way that evaporation into the air is kept to a minimum. 

We urge you all-natural, environmentally friendly cleaning products. Click here to learn safe, healthy, alternatives to toxic cleaning products.

Detection Is The Best Protection

Nearly every house these days is built with smoke detectors installed, and smoke is one pollutant you can easily detect by its smell. But there are some indoor toxins that you can’t smell, like carbon monoxide or radon, and they can be detrimental to your health, even after minimal exposure. 

There are both carbon monoxide and radon detectors on the market which you can install in your home to warn you if ever there is the presence of one of these harmful chemicals. 

Get Gassy

No, this is not a plug to eat more beans — although, they are an excellent, healthy anti-inflammatory food. In this case, we’re talking about using gas logs over wood logs if you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove in your home. We know this one can be a potentially costly undertaking if you do have a wood-burning stove or wood-burning fireplace. Gas fireplaces burn more cleanly than wood-burning ones. Plus, there’s no smoke, which means there’s no particulate matter floating out into the outside environment or into your home if the chimney isn’t drawing the smoke properly.

If you do have a wood-burning stove or fireplace and don’t even want to consider the possibility of switching to gas, use dry, seasoned wood. Wet, unseasoned wood burns inefficiently and can produce more smoke. Look for wood that is gray, discolored, and dry to the touch. If the bark is falling off or you see lots of cracks and splits in the wood, even better. 

Also, make sure you store your wood properly. You don’t want it to get moldy, which can result in you breathing in mold once you get your fire going. Of course don’t ever burn wood that’s been treated with stain, paint, or any sort of chemicals. This isn’t just for your benefit, but one for your neighbors, as well, since the chemicals in that wood may affect them via the smoke from your chimney. 

Another, more environmentally friendly, option would be to install an electric fireplace, as they use less energy than both gas- and wood fireplaces. Plus, there are no toxins of any kind being emitted when you use an electric fireplace.

On days when the air quality outside is particularly bad (you can usually find this out from the weather reports), avoid using your fireplace altogether. 

Clean Your Air

If you live near the ocean, you’re incredibly lucky for a number of reasons. Not only is it soothing, calming, and beautiful to look at, but it can help improve your health when you breathe in that wonderful salt air. The same can be said for thunderstorms and standing near waterfalls.

When you stand in or near these environments, your body takes in a surplus of negatively charged ions, and an abundance of negatively charged ions are believed that they can help:

Therefore, we highly recommend you use an air ionizer in your home. Another major benefit they bring, is that they work to remove particulate matter from the air you breathe in your home, including:

  • Mold spores
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Dust
  • Odors
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses

They do so by sending negatively charged ions out into the air which then attach to positively charged particles in the air, making them too heavy to stay airborne. 

There are all kinds of air ionizers currently on the market, and you can use them in your home, your office, and even your car. There are even portable air ionizers to take with you when you travel or to sit on your desk. 

Another all-natural option people try are Himalayan salt lamp. Like air ionizers, they are purported to emit negative ions into the air when the heat of the lamp warms the salt. However, the science community says otherwise, so definitely more studies are needed to verify the benefits. 

Another all-natural alternative is to burn some beeswax candles. They are also purported to emit lots of negative ions that latch onto dust, dirt, and pollen. However, the effect is probably small, and burning candles indoors can be hazardous.

You might also consider investing in an air purifier. An air purifier is different from an air ionizer because it pulls air full of those contaminants we mentioned into a HEPA filter and emits clean air. 

Whether you’re using an air ionizer or an air purifier, look for one that’s ozone-free. The EPA has found that ozone air purifiers can be harmful to your health and cause lung and respiratory issues, including worsening symptoms associated with asthma. 

Go Green

Did you know that houseplants can act as a natural air purifier?

In 1989, NASA conducted a study in which they filled a room with houseplants, pumped the room full of harmful chemicals, and waited 24 hours to see how many of those chemicals were removed. They found that 90% of those chemicals were removed!

The good news is, houseplants are some of the best air purifiers are extremely common and easy to find. 

They include:

  • Peace lilies
  • Boston ferns
  • Gerbera daisies
  • Snake plants
  • Chinese evergreen
  • English ivy
  • Lady palms
  • Aloe
  • Dracaena
  • Spider plants

NASA found, out of all those plants, the three best are:

  • Gerbera daisies
  • English ivy
  • Snake plants

Plants are effective air purifiers because, much like air filters, they take in toxins through their leaves and draw them down into their roots where they become trapped. Those toxins are then broken down in the soil or stored in the plant. 

Really, any houseplant should work to purify the air and can be much more aesthetically pleasing than an air ionizer or filter. A good rule of thumb is to look for houseplants with a lot of growing potential — the bigger the plant, the more toxins it can take in. The same goes for leaf size — the bigger the leaf, the more toxins it can take in. 

Don’t have a green thumb? Opt for the snake plant, which is also known as Saint George’s sword or mother-in-law’s tongue. This plant likes low light and is very hard to kill. 

Before moving on, it’s always a good idea to keep your house clean and to change your bedsheets regularly. Vacuum floors and furniture to eliminate pet dander and be diligent about changing any filters you might have in your house. Dust mites can collect on bedsheets and pillowcases, so try not to leave them on your bed for too long. It also might not hurt to open the windows and let some fresh air in, even in the wintertime. 

Wrap-Up

Today, we focused on the effects of indoor air pollution, which comes in many forms, including:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Mold spores
  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Smoke
  • Odors

When these pollutants build up over time, they can lead to health issues like: headaches, fatigue, eye, nose, and throat irritation, asthma, dizziness, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.

Some of these pollutants can even result in death! In fact, over 4 million deaths worldwide occur as a result of a toxic indoor environment. 

Some things you can do to reduce indoor air pollution and improve your indoor air quality include:

  • Install a gas or electric fireplace
  • If you have a wood-burning stove or wood-burning fireplace, use only dry, seasoned wood
  • Invest in an air ionizer or purifier or both
  • Install carbon monoxide and radon detectors
  • Fill your indoor space with houseplants 

Also, remember to take steps to prevent inflammation and damage caused by free radicals, toxins and other pollutants, including eating foods that fight against inflammation and taking Smarter Curcumin to ensure you are getting the support your body needs to fight inflammation and damage resulting from pollution and toxins in our environment.

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