Dr. Bob: Air pollution inside and outside community news



Every evening, regardless of which news channel you view, outdoor air pollution levels are displayed along the Wasatch front.

You remember that the report is divided by color on a card. Red, yellow, orange and green dominate our screens and predict the air quality for the next day. Unfortunately, more often than not, the prediction along the Wasatch Front is for some of the worst air in the nation.

Although the attention of scientists, citizens and regulators of the government has in the past concentrated on air pollution in the open air, it is becoming increasingly clear that the air in our houses, churches, supermarkets and at work can pose a greater risk to health. then form outside the levels of pollution.

According to the EPA, with the exception of ozone and sulfur dioxide, all air pollutants that are regulated according to US laws are at a higher level indoors than outdoors. This is why indoor air pollution has been identified as one of the five most important environmental risks for public health.

This is important because most of us spend much more time indoors than outdoors. It should also be remembered that, as with most health risks, young people, the elderly and people with chronic health problems suffer the most adverse effects.

In the years & # 39; 70 and & # 39; 80 the construction sector responded, while the cost of energy exploded explosively, by looking for ways to efficiently grow in new buildings, including housing. Thick insulation, triple glazing, magnetically sealed doors, airtight foyers and a reduction in the amount of fresh air heating and cooling systems that entered the building became standard. Although this saved energy costs, it did not take long before complaints about burning eyes, lung irritation and, in extreme cases, nausea, vomiting and dizziness were experienced by building occupants.

As with most polluting substances, the solution for pollution is in dilution. Even small amounts of toxic substances in an inadequately ventilated building can cause serious health problems.

Plywood, chipboard, paneling, paints, varnishes, carpets, stain protection treatments, radon, adhesives, gas cookers, cigarette smoke, molds and a wide range of other materials, each with their own chemical mix, find their way to new buildings. Previously, cheap energy costs were a motivator to overlook the efficiency of the building. In a way, when the wind blows through an older building, a safe environment is created.

By the 1980s there was a new term to describe a broad spectrum of adverse effects that were experienced by inadequate air circulation indoors. Known as sick building syndrome (SBS), it consists of a series of construction-related disorders (BRI) that cause headaches, wheezing, dizziness and nausea. Sometimes complaints are limited to certain parts of a home or business building, while at other times it is the entire building.

Over the years, the EPA situation has improved very little. People still bring energy savings for potential health risks. It is probably also correct to note that many people do not even think about SBS or BRI.

The EPA estimates that as much as 30 percent of newly built and converted buildings are at risk. Since monitoring millions of homes is not practical, safe air standards and emission policies have been developed for making items such as plywood, which releases formaldehyde and many other potential sources of pollution indoors.

A simple solution can be to simply open windows and rinse our homes. That works well, except when the outside air is contaminated or identified as unhealthy. In the future, updated building codes with design features and materials that minimize the release and retention of air pollutants within the space ensure that new structures are both safe and energy efficient.


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