Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Improve Indoor Air Quality by Avoiding Asbestos, Particulate Matter & Dust


Basic needs -- food, water, shelter, family, and good health are common essentials for survival and well-being. While expanding those necessities a bit this Clean Air and Breathe Easy month, we’re raising asbestos, particulate matter, dust and other air pollutant awareness to detail how and why air quality matters. Affecting billions of people globally every single day, air quality can often be the key to living your highest quality of life for the most number of years possible.

On average, people living in developed countries spend roughly 90% of their time indoors, either at home or in the workplace. Being aware and able to improve the quality of the air you breathe from the comfort of your own home or workplace can significantly benefit your health and quality of life. 

Asbestos Awareness

Have you ever even heard of asbestos? Very resistant to chemicals, electricity and water, asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral. Due to its malleability and other desirable physical properties, it has been used in building materials including roofs, tiles, wall boards, cables, even paints and much more, for many years. It was not until the 1960s that researchers identified asbestos-related illnesses and cancer such as mesothelioma - affecting the lungs, abdomen, heart or testes. In fact, exposure to asbestos is the only scientifically proven cause of mesothelioma, taking the lives of 3,000 people each year in the United States alone.

But what does a mineral have to do with air quality and my health? Because asbestos is fibrous in nature and used in products likely to crumble or flake such as insulation, roofing and more, there are a number of ways to become exposed to asbestos. Generally speaking if asbestos is undisturbed, it is not harmful. However, when asbestos fibers are disturbed, they can become airborne and when inhaled or ingested, the fibers can lodge in the lining of the heart, abdomen, lungs and other areas of the body, causing health effects up to 10-50 years later.

Although asbestos is not used in new construction, it has yet to be banned in the United States today and if your home was built prior to 1980, it is possible that some building materials used to construct your home may contain asbestos. If you suspect asbestos in your home, do not sweep, use a fan or disturb the asbestos or the area you suspect that may contain asbestos. Have your home tested for asbestos and consider a Speck air quality sensor to stay informed of the changes and trends in your home’s air concentration.

Dust & Particulate Matter Awareness

When it comes to the day to day, is particulate matter harmful? Yes. Mixtures of microscopic solids and liquid droplets suspended in the air make up harmful fine particle pollution. Those with heart or lung disease, especially older adults and children are considered at greater risk. Particulate matter can specifically aggravate diseases including coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Any particles of matter, suspended in the are that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or smaller, (thirty times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair) are classified as fine particles, which can cause or worsen heart and lung diseases. Due to their small size they can penetrate deep into the lungs, blocking air sacs where oxygen enters the bloodstream or attaching to lung tissue where their reactive surfaces can adversely affect lung tissue. Airborne chemicals that are toxic and reactive can attach to PM2.5 and enter your bloodstream.

Where does particulate matter come from and how can I stay safe at home? Fine particles and particulate matter are produced by many sources including household activities such as cooking and cleaning. For example, gas and oil heating can release particulates. Pay attention to where furnace vents are or if you have an oil heater. Forced-air heating and air conditioning systems can be major sources of air pollution if the ductwork is dirty or if there are no filters in the system to filter out particles as they move throughout the house. Use HEPA filters with forced-air systems to improve indoor air quality.

If you’ve caged up, cleaned or thrown away your dust bunnies this Spring, give yourself a pat on the back, but don’t stop there. Learn more about air quality monitoring and fine particulate matter in indoor environments, to truly breathe easy this Clean Air month and stay up to date on the latest news and air quality announcements, year-round by following our Speck Sensor Facebook page.

Written by MAA Center

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