The most prominent indoor air pollutants will be discussed.

1. Asbestos is a mineral fiber which when inhaled can increase the risk of disease. Asbestos may be found in the home and in some: roofing and siding shingles, insulation in houses built between 1930 and 1950, attic and wall insulation, textured paint and patching compounds used before 1977, artificial ashes and embers in gas-fired fireplaces, older stove-top pads, walls and floors around wood-burning stoves, vinyl floor tiles, around steam pipes or hot water systems in older houses, and older oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets. There is a long-term risk of chest and abdominal cancers and lung diseases. Smoking increases the risk of the diseases substantially. During removal of the asbestos products by cutting, sanding, etc., the fibers may become airborne and become a health hazard. Deterioration of the product may also create a problem. The very small fibers are inhaled most frequently and may accumulate in the lungs causing over time lung diseases and potentially chest and abdominal cancers.

Best Practices for Asbestos

  • • Do not cut, rip, or sand asbestos-containing materials.
  • • Utilize a professional company with trained contractors to remove any asbestos from the premises.
  • • Use appropriate personal protective equipment when working with asbestos.
  • • Isolate the work area for the removal of asbestos from the rest of the structure.
  • • Dispose of asbestos in an appropriate manner.
  • 2. Biological Contaminants include bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew, animal dander, cat saliva, house dust mites, pollen, droppings from roaches, and droppings and urine from mice, rats, and domestic animals. Bacteria and viruses may directly cause disease from inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact. All the biological contaminants may help cause allergic reactions including hypersensitivity pneumonitis and allergic rhinitis, and may have a profound effect on asthma, which is the leading cause of absence from schools, lost workdays, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations. An especially high rate of asthma associated with allergens occurs in low-income, inner-city children. Allergens affecting humans include dust mites, dust, pollen, pet dander, insect, and rodent contaminant proteins found in urine, dander, saliva, and roach body parts and feces, and mold and mildew, which may release disease-causing toxins.
  • • Dust mites are microscopic eight-legged arthropods. They are non-parasitic and do not bite. They feed on shed human skin, pollen, fungi, bacteria, and animal dander. Their feces and body parts when inhaled cause sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, runny noses, and other respiratory symptoms as well as asthma.
  • • Dust is an accumulation of dust mite feces, cigarette ash, fibers from clothing and paper, animal and human hair, insect fragments, human skin, animal dander, soil, fungus spores, and debris from a variety of surfaces.
  • • Mold and mildew are fungi, which are found everywhere within the environment. The spores enter houses and grow at the temperatures most suitable for human life. Considerable moisture is necessary for growth, either 70% humidity or greater, where there has been recent water damage, or in bathrooms or under leaking sinks. Certain molds produce mycotoxins which cause adverse health effects including inflammation and injury to gastrointestinal and pulmonary tissues.
  • • Pollen is a fine powder-like material consisting of grains that are produced by seed plants and then carried by wind or insects prior to fertilization. Pollen enters the house through tiny cracks and through open doors and windows.
  • • Pet dander, an allergen, is composed of tiny flakes of dead skin, resembling dandruff, constantly sloughing off pets. It readily combines with oil and dirt to form a glue-like substance. Breathing in pet dander leads to allergic reactions in some people, causing inflammation, coughing, watery eyes, and runny nose. The human immune system function is operating as it should, in discovering foreign substances such as allergens, viruses, and bacteria and then removing them.
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