You May Not Be Breathing The Air You Think You Are

With so much attention focused on cleaning up the environment and reducing outdoor air pollution, not enough attention is given to the quality of air indoors, says one expert.

With so much attention focused on cleaning up the environment and reducing outdoor air pollution, not enough attention is given to the quality of air indoors, according to the owner of one Florida-based building and consulting service company.

Tom Smith, owner of Envirotech, said he's seen a dramatic rise in complaints resulting from "sick building syndrome."

"In the 1970s, conserving energy was a major concern. Office buildings were constructed as airtight as possible, with little or no fresh air circulating," observes Smith.

"This is an ideal way for pollutants to accumulate and produce a wide range of health problems," he adds.

Poorly maintained air conveyance systems can result in the growth of a variety of molds that he says can cause lower activity levels and increased absenteeism in occupants. Long or short-term effects, which may show up after a single exposure, include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness and respiratory failure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several infants died as a result of contracting lung disease directly related to inhalation of stachybotrus, a black mold that grows in damp areas of homes and office buildings.

Even at home, there are many sources of indoor air pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood and tobacco products can contribute to poor air quality. Some of the most common indoor allergens are household dust mites, cockroaches and dander. Other factors can also contribute to the air quality such as: asbestos-containing insulation; wet or damp carpet; household cleaning products such as air fresheners; personal care products; hobbies; and central heating and cooling systems.

Smith says has also seen air quality problems related to buildings that were poorly constructed, including improper window installations, shoddy wall construction and HVAC systems that were not installed correctly.

The next time you feel sluggish or have a headache coming on, perhaps reaching for the medicine bottle isn't enough, says Smith, you might want to reach for the phone to call a qualified indoor air quality expert.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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