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What are you Breathing? Tips Improve Indoor Air Quality

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Last updated 02/25/2022

Talking about particulate matter (PM) with smoke exposure you may not be aware of its importance to your health. An easy explanation is it contains particles that become aerosolized in the air you inhale. What are you breathing?

When these particles are less than 10 micrometers they become dangerous. Due to the fact they can enter your respiratory tract onto your immune system. Thus causing an array of possible health conditions.

For example particles this small can be; mold, bacteria, viruses, allergens and toxics. As the EPA says particular matter has been linked to many health problems. For instance the rise in eczema flare-ups with the wildfires.

There are also health issues like cardiac arrhythmias and heart attack. Likewise respiratory effects like asthma attacks and bronchitis.

As a result exposure to PM can mean:

  • More hospital admissions
  • ER visits
  • Being absent from school and work
  • Limiting activities

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What is in the Air?

Well according to Scijinks website the two important gases for life on Earth. Nitrogen and Oxygen make up the air in our atmosphere. However as you have seen with smoke exposure air also contains other gases and particles.

The 5 major air pollutants:

  • Ground level ozone
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Airborne particles or aerosols

Air pollutants causing the highest risk in the United States to your health are ground level ozone and airborne particles. Further these are also the main components making smog, a kind of air pollution.

How is Air Quality Measured?

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a tool that works like a thermometer. It runs from 0 to 500 degrees. But other than measuring the changes in temperature it shows results for pollution in your area.

This breaks down how clean or polluted the air is. It is essential to monitor air quality because you know how it affects your health and skin.

When Air Quality has you Indoors

You spend about 90% of your time indoors. This includes home, work, school, shopping, eating out and other activities. Above all this exposes you to certain indoor air pollutants.

As long as the AQI is below 50 things are good. When the AQI is this low it poses little risk to your health. So you can enjoy time outdoors. But when the number goes up the risk for human health does also.

Most pollutants come from human activity. The wind can impact the air quality by moving pollutants around. In addition temperatures can also have an effect, when its cooler this traps exhaust fumes close to the ground.

What is Indoor Air Pollution?

Yes indoor air pollution is inside your home or other buildings you spend time in. Pollutants can be harmful to your health when breathed in. Moreover you can’t see it but occasionally you may be able to smell it.

These can irritate your skin. In some cases they may cause serious health issues. That is to say some pollutants have been in human dwellings for centuries.

Common indoor pollution sources:

  • Second-hand smoke
  • New carpet fumes
  • Paint
  • Craft glues, markers and polymer clay
  • Cleansers and detergents
  • Glass cleaners, air fresheners and furniture sprays
  • Gas stoves
  • Radon leak
  • Pesticide
  • Copying machines and printers
  • Pet dander
  • Mold

Likewise, combustion from fire can produce harmful chemicals. Other pollutants are more modern, and some are natural such as mold and bacteria. Most importantly indoor air pollution can lead to millions of deaths worldwide each year like strokes and lung cancer.

No matter the cause or its origin identifying indoor air pollution will aid you and your family to breath better. In addition lower your risk for serious long term health conditions.

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Symptoms related to poor indoor air quality:

  • Eye irritation
  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Dry skin
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Sinus problems
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Indoor Air Pollution Affecting Your Skin

Indoor air pollution can affect your skin. Especially, during colder dryer months when spending more time indoors.

This can lead to:

  • Dry skin
  • Premature aging
  • Dermatitis
  • Rashes, hives or acne
  • Rosacea, eczema and psoriasis flare-ups

You may not notice the connection immediately. Due to it could take some time for pollutants to cause a reaction. In addition external factors and the season form it difficult to determine its indoor air pollution affecting your skin.

Indoor air pollution can land on your skin and cause topical reactions. It can also penetrate your skin barrier causing acne or flare-ups. Further long term exposure of some toxic air pollutants have been known to lead to skin cancer. So it’s essential to acknowledge these pollutants and reduce your exposure.

Prevent Indoor Air Pollution

Cigarette Smoke

One of the most common indoor air pollutants is cigarette smoke. The residual gas and particles can settle in your fabrics and carpeting. Certainly, you have heard of second-hand smoke, this is known as third-hand smoke.

And for children who are playing on their floors and those with chronic heart and lung conditions risks are extremely high. Similarly are electronic cigarettes with vapors containing organic compounds, metals plus other chemicals. Therefore electronic cigarettes are linked to lung disease as well. Thus your best option is a smoke-free home.

Household Cleansers

Harsh chemicals from household cleansers can release irritating fumes. These can affect your eyes, nose, lungs and your skin. In addition fumes can cause eczema, rosacea and psoriasis flare-ups.

Disinfect

Since being employed as a cleaner this has been a big thing with the pandemic. Disinfectants kill bacteria, viruses and mold. However the fumes can be irritating to inhale. But you can use essential oils as well.

Craft Supplies

When the kids or you are creating crafts with glue, markers or polymer clay the room should be well-ventilated or outside.

Remove Carpets

If possible, I know can’t do in an apartment. However removing your carpet will illuminate pollutants from landing and collecting on the surface.

Cover Trash Containers

So it doesn’t attract pest get a trash container with a lid and use it. With this covered you will encounter less fruit flies and house flies. Plus no lingering smells.

Have a Dusting Routine

Personally I am so bad at this. Dust just seems to collect in no time. I find just taking a couple minutes on a certain day makes a dent in things. So common areas dust collects are doorframes, baseboards, behind furniture vents of your HVAC and on top of molding.

Really dust is found on every surface. And if you have a basement especially with a dryer down there that’s a real dust magnet.

Clear Clutter

I really have to do this. Talk about dust. We have items stored under the bed. Occasionally we journey under there.

But I have been making a mental note to start tossing things. Of course clutter can collect in other areas too.

Use a HEPA Vacuum

We have one of these especially for pets. Because two cats can produce a lot of cat hair. In conclusion it contains a certified HEPA filter that keeps small particles from circulating back out again while you clean. So debris is not recirculating back into your air.

Regularly Change Filters/Clean Ducts

To reduce the particles always recirculating in your home do these two things. First change all filters in mechanical systems (HEPA filters) and have your ductwork cleaned. However for the latter you might be more comfortable hiring someone certified by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.

Protect From Water Buildup

To prevent water damage you might invest in a humidity meter or leak detector. This will assist in keeping levels in the right range. For example installing these in water prone areas can ensure bacteria and mold won’t rise PM in your home.

That is to say forming that your shower and kitchen sink area is thoroughly dried as well. Most importantly this should be done after each use.

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Treat Water Buildup Right Away

When noticing water built up you shouldn't leave the situation until later. To avoid mold growth dry and dehumidify that space because it can grow in 24 hours. In other words, if you leave it alone eventually you will smell and see it.

You can observe a puddle or stream as well as discoloration by the leak. There may be a musty damp smell in the location. In short you may even feel moisture.

If so, you should identify and address the leak. In addition you might consider consulting a mold inspector to test the area and verify there is no mold growth.

Improve Air Quality Naturally

If you look for natural alternatives like I do, when the weather is comfortable outdoors I open my doors and windows. This allows natural ventilation. In addition to avoid chemicals in my air I purchase more products containing natural ingredients. These can be found through Amrita Essential Oils.

Wrapping it up

As always wash your hands and ditch shoes at the door. This helps to keep germs (viruses and bacteria) out of your space. Certainly it’s good hygiene.

You may not see air pollution or know your indoor air quality but it’s in your home. Taking simple precautions can boost your air quality while improving your health and skin.

If you have other suggestions to prevent indoor air pollution drop me a comment.

Mary

Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.

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