The word pollution often conjures up images of smokestacks and exhaust pipes blowing dark grey clouds into the sky. We can attribute much of this imagery to the various political and environmental campaigns aimed at educating the public on greenhouse emissions and the damage they inflict on the natural world.
That said, far fewer resources exist for identifying the pollutants lingering inside our homes. Consequently, many people do not invest in the proper purification systems and remain exposed to harmful pollutants year-round. Here are just a few of those pollutants running rampage indoors.
Gases and Odours
Gases float among us everywhere we go—some naturally occurring, others (wo)manmade. The fact we can’t see them makes them easy to ignore; as the adage goes, “out of sight and out of mind.” There are various types of gases present in the home, two common ones being radon and carbon monoxide.
Radon exists everywhere—when uranium breaks down, it produces this gas. Nevertheless, overexposure can increase the risks of lung cancer. Carbon monoxide is a little more serious. When fossil fuels fail to completely combust, carbon monoxide is made. When present in the home, it affects the body’s ability to draw in sufficient oxygen. In high enough doses, carbon monoxide is lethal.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) have also become a large concern in aerosol products, paints and other household cleaners. VOCs are organic chemicals with a high vapour pressure, and although not acutely toxic, high concentrations of VOCs are suspected to have long-term health consequences. Common VOCs include formaldehyde, toluene, chloride, ethylene and benzene.
Odours fall into the gas category but are much easier to detect. Offensive odours from litter, pesticides and other chemicals immediately alert us of these gases. Interestingly, even pleasant smells can be harmful in excess. More air fresheners mask odours by introducing new chemicals, whereas purifiers work to remove the pollutants altogether.
Airborne particles like dander, dust, pollen and mold aggravate our respiratory systems. Some pose a much larger threat than others. For example, dander is known to trigger allergic responses that range from mild cold-like symptoms to complete respiratory failure. Likewise, fungal growth like mold can be toxic and overexposure can lead to serious health consequences. Bacteria, viruses and other pathogens fall into this category as well.