Winter Season Blues: The Shocking Dangers of Indoor Air Pollution

It’s wintertime, and more people will be staying indoors. This has caused many to fear covid spikes as people are in close proximity to each other for longer periods of time. Yes, it’s cold outside, and we are staying inside more often, but there’s one thing people must remember:

Indoor air can be up to 5x more polluted than outdoor air.

Consider the following:

A survey of selected scented consumer goods showed the products emitted more than 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including some that are classified as toxic or hazardous by federal laws. Even products advertised as “green,” “natural,” or “organic” emitted as many hazardous chemicals as standard ones.

Read the study HERE.

In other words, staying home to avoid the corona virus might increase your exposure to other harmful things. The irony is these other health issues could potentially increase the severity of coronavirus symptoms. Here are a few of the most common causes of indoor air pollution:

  • Allergies caused by dirty air filters
  • Dirty ductwork
  • Too much or too little humidity
  • Poorly maintained HVAC or ventilation
  • Tobacco products
  • Radon
  • Oil
  • Gas
  • Kerosene

In addition to the above, here are 2 indoor pollutants we should be aware of:

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is found in the following household items:

  • Furniture polish
  • Car cleaners
  • Disinfectants
  • Rug and upholstery cleaners
  • Toilet bowl cleaners
Crop anonymous person wearing yellow cleaning glove removing stains on toilet bowl with sponge in washroom

In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure.

Signs of formadehyde poisoning include the following:

  • Burning eyes
  • Respiratory tract irritation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Irregular heartbeats with tightness and pain in the chest.

 Petroleum Distillates (Petrochemicals)

Derived from petroleum, petrochemicals are found in the following products:

  • Floor and furniture polish
  • Lubricating oils
  • Pet flea and tick products and collars
  • Dishwasher cleaners
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Laundry detergents

Per the United States Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), potential health issues from petrochemicals include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat
  • Death by vascular damage
  • Pulmonary edema in extreme cases

Chronic diseases have become a health burden of global dimension with special emphasis in regions with poor monitoring over contents of benzene in petrochemicals. Benzene is a well known carcinogen of blood and its components. Benzene exposure can lead to numerous non-cancerous health effects associated with functional aberration of vital systems in the body like reproductive, immune, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, and respiratory.

Read the study HERE.

Knowing the different causes of poor indoor air is key to improving it. In addition, one of  the best things to do is simply open your windows and allow fresh air in your home.

Many people keep their windows closed at all times. While this may save on heating and cooling costs, it also traps the allergens and toxins in the home. Simply opening the windows for just a few minutes each day or leaving them cracked can help as well.

Woman Sitting on a Chair next to a Window
Open the windows to let fresh air into your home.

Making your own disinfectant wipes is a great way to decrease the use of dangerous chemicals in the home:

The Power of Houseplants

A great way to purify the air in your home is to purchase houseplants. Adding plants to interior spaces can increase oxygen levels.

During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This opposite pattern of gas use makes plants and people natural partners.

Green young plants placed on table

In addition, plants constantly remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. VOCs include substances like formaldehyde as described above They also remove other dangerous compounds found in man-made fibers, inks, solvents and paint.

If you have a bedroom above the garage, add houseplants to that room. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that is released by cars and can be extremely dangerous. As the carbon monoxide from the car rises into the room, the plants will convert it into oxygen. To maximize the benefit of houseplants, aim to have at least one in every room.

What is your favorite plant? Did you know Aloe Vera plants can remove formaldehyde, and the ficus plants removes benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air?

Houseplants in the Office

Another great ideais to take a houseplant to work and place on your desk. Most offices are full of carpet and no open windows. Cleaning companies use chemicals  overnight that may be hazardous to our health. Fresh coats of paint can have harmful chemicals in them as well.

Plants have been used to decrease the effects of sick building syndrome:

The sick building syndrome (SBS) is used to describe a situation in which the occupants of a building experience acute health- or comfort-related effects that seem to be linked directly to the time spent in the building. No specific illness or cause can be identified. The complainants may be localized in a particular room or zone or may be widespread throughout the building.

Air cleaning can be a useful addition to control air pollution. Air cleaning can be performed by ensuring uncongested interiors with open office designs, community spaces and indoor plants that absorb carbon monoxide and formaldehyde from the air. 

Read the full scientific study HERE.
Woman in Gray Blazer Sitting In Front of Gray Laptop Computer

Plants create fresh oxygen in the office, absorb a variety of toxins and help clean the air, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Taking Care of Plants

Taking care of plants is simple. All you have to do in most instances is put them close to a window or fluorescent lights and water them once or twice a week, depending on the variety of plant. Adding ice cubes is another option: Some people forget to water their plants but the soil will absorb the water from the ice as it melts better than simply using water.

Additional Problems

Sedentary lifestyle: Staying indoors can be linked to other health issues as well. When staying indoors, many people are watching television or not being active. This sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of other health issues such as obesity, heart diseases and type 2 diabetes:

Sedentary behaviors have wide-ranging adverse impacts on the human body including increased all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer risk, and risks of metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and dyslipidemia; musculoskeletal disorders such as arthralgia and osteoporosis; depression; and, cognitive impairment. 

Read the study HERE.

Vitamin D deficiency: Staying indoors can increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency. A vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a weakened immune system, which could increase covid severity.

Very severe vitamin D deficiency was considerably more common in COVID-19 patients (44%) (average age, 44.15 ± 1.89 years [range, 23-80 years] and 57.57% women) than in non-COVID-19 ones (31%) (average age, 46.50 ± 2.21 years [range, 20-75 years] and 62.5% women). 

Among COVID-19-positive patients, the group with vitamin D levels of >30 ng/ml had significantly lower D-dimer and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, number of affected lung segments and shorter hospital stays.

Read the study HERE.

It’s critical we look at the big picture and do everything we can to maintain good health.

Call To Action

While attempting to avoid the corona virus, don’t forget about other dangers that are lurking. Take a good look at your home and make the necessary adjustments.

Open your windows and buy a few houseplants. Your body will thank you.

Get more great tips in my books The Three Pillars of Strength: Increasing Your Physical, Mental and Spiritual Fitness and The Diet of Success: Healthy Eating Tips for Hard Working Professionals. Both available in paperback, Kindle and Audible formats on Amazon.

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