Is The Air You Are Breathing Making You Sick?

Have you ever been in a building where you could swear the actual place itself is making you sick?  Your eyes tear up, your head feels stuffy and you can’t get out of the place fast enough.  Well, you aren’t imagining it.  Toxins, pesticides, gases, mites, and molds are everywhere, and the more you’re exposed to them, the greater your risk for developing the health problems they can cause. 

The worst scenario is when this building is the home you live in.  Typically referred to as “sick building syndrome,” sufferers will usually experience a group of symptoms such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, stuffiness, “spaciness,” and rash.  You may notice these symptoms within an hour or two of entering a building but also notice that they will be gone within an hour or two of leaving a building.  As there is no objective test that measures these symptoms, it is imperative to pay attention to where and when they arise. 

According to Dr. Richard Shaughnessy, Ph.D., the program director of indoor air research at the University of Tulsa, in Oklahoma, “We spend about 93 percent of our lives indoors, another 5 percent in transit, and only 2 percent outdoors.”  Weatherizing our homes for energy-efficiency can also create less passageways for air to travel, leaving it to sometimes sit for long periods of time without circulation.  This can result in irritants (like dust and mold) and airborne chemicals (like lead, toluene, and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) that are then trapped inside with us, and we breathe them in.

The number one thing we can do to combat this bad air is to have your air ducts professionally cleaned at least every couple of years. And be sure to service your heating system, as well, to make it operate more efficiently and cleanly.  Anecdotally, people tend to feel a LOT better within days of having these services performed.  This is because when air-conditioning cools your home, for example, it often leaves traces of water in the ducts that become the perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria. That microbial growth is often the cause of respiratory issues—asthma, allergies, coughing, and headaches.  Improper maintenance of your HVAC system is often the primary cause of building sickness. 

Additionally, you can upgrade your air quality by performing your own regular home check-ups.  Inspect pipes, closets, basements, and attics to ensure all is dry. If you find any leaky areas, clean and dry where the water has accumulated, and contact a plumber or roofer to fix the situation.  Unseen leaks may be causing mold growth in your home, which can be problematic for people prone to asthma and allergically-induced breathing problems. 

Regular house cleaning can drastically cut down on the number of allergens floating around.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, dust mites, which are microscopic bugs that thrive on the humidity and warmth provided by our bodies, live in every home.  But by vacuuming and dusting weekly, you can rid your environment of mites invading your home carpets, curtains, and furniture, and therefore spare someone who has asthma and allergies the more uncomfortable and debilitating reactions caused by the bugs.  It’s easy enough to wash your sheets and towels weekly in hot water and make sure they’re thoroughly dried. to rid your environment of them

There is no way to truly calculate the number of illnesses directly resulting from bad indoor air.  As much as we try to control our indoor environment, nothing can withstand the constant barrage of potentially harmful molecules that are just everywhere.  We are none of us an island, and neither are our homes…nothing can be kept pristine where there is life.  Humans are just too messy for that.  The most we can do is attempt to reduce the level of irritants and chemicals that may keep us from feeling 100 percent.   For that we need to keep up with regular house cleaning…and of course, call in the professionals to make sure our equipment is operating at maximum efficiency.

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