What’s In the Air We Breathe?

carsThe air that we breathe is full of all kinds of different pollutants, and air quality is constantly on the decline. This does not change whether you are outdoors or you are within the safety of your own home, in many cases the air inside of your house may be even worse due to materials that your house may have been constructed with. Pollutants in the home are even worse in many older homes due to materials that many older homes have been constructed from. In these old houses molds are much more common, and some other nasty materials that may have been used are lead and asbestos. It can be expensive to have these cleaned up from your home, but the health benefits and the air quality will improve which makes every penny spent well worth it.

smokestackAir quality outdoors can have many different pollutants and toxins as previously mentioned, and where you live can be a big factor in this. Areas with many factories and industrial areas can contaminate the air with all types of different pollutants that you probably do not even think about while going about your daily business. Below is a list of some of the different nasty things that you may be breathing on a daily basis, some of these may shock you but you should know what you are being exposed to just by breathing. There are air purifiers that will help eliminate many of these toxins but it is hard to remove them all from the air we breathe.

Before we begin the list of things we are breathing here are a few eye opening facts, and these show that air quality is constantly declining around the world, with the US leading the way.

  • “The number of people who die from asthma has almost doubled since 1979.” – American Lung Association
  • “Indoor air is always 2 to 5 times more polluted and may be over 100 times worse than the outdoor air.” – Environmental Protection Agency
  • “The number of people experiencing sinus problems has skyrocketed to 35 million.” – National Institute for Allergy & Infectious Control

Air is a gas which consists of molecules, the ratio of molecules is approximately 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.3% carbon dioxide with traces of neon, helium, as well as other gases and water vapors.These contaminants that are in the air we breathe are known as solid, germ & gas type contaminants. Here are some of the things we are breathing, many of these are worse indoors than they are outside since they get inside and get trapped inside. Modern day insulation techniques help keep them trapped inside our homes and offices more now than ever before.

  1. Pet Dander – This comes from dead animal skin cells which is similar to human dandruff  which falls off as the skin becomes dry. Once they get into the air these particles are inhaled and swallowed which is why 30% of  people suffering with allergies own pets and a lot of pet dander in the air will trigger the allergies.
  2. Micro-Organisms The EPA has stated that bio-contaminants are living organisms and their derivatives, these include bacteria, dust mites, viruses, pet dander, viruses, as well as arious molds. The organisms can build up in the human body and reach toxic levels which will cause respiratory problem, worsened allergies and much more. Kids and elderly people are a lot more at risk to these airborne bio-contaminants.
  3. moldMold and Mildew Spores – These nasty spores can fill the indoor air we breathe and usually these are the most common particle pollutants found in many buildings. Since mold is a fungus it can grow on things in your house including old fruits, meats, bread, among other things. Mold spores can be controlled by paying attention to kepping things clean and disposing of old food products. Mildew is a bit different since it is usually in places that we cannot see or we do not have access to. The mildew spores are released in the millions and they can be a big threat to our health.
  4. Diesel – Diesel engines emit more than 40 different toxins and some of the effects after a lifetime of exposure include cancer which is due to the benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic, and nickel and polycyclic hydrocarbons that diesel fumes can emit. Other air toxins that come from diesel emissions include toluene, mercury, cadmium, and lead, which are proven to cause birth defects and many reproductive problems. Soot from diesel can also trigger asthma and has been linked to an increasing number of hospital admissions for heart and respiratory diseases.
  5. Benzene – Inhalation of benzene has been proven to cause cancer, levels are higher in certain regions than others. Benzene is present in many gasolines including those in all types of vehicles from planes and trains to cars, the EPA has been working on reducing the amount of benzene in gasoline products for years.
  6. Formaldehyde – This is another toxin that is known to cause cancer to humans,it is usually linked to leukemia, brain tumors, lymphomas, and also lung cancer. It is also known to trigger asthma and cause liver damage. Formaldehyde does occur naturally, and it is also produced in laboratories for use in consumer products such as antiseptics, food preservatives, cosmetics, pesticides as well as in tobacco products. It is also released into the air by many different engines.
  7. Dioxins – These are carcinogens and are linked to reproductive difficulties, birth defects, hormone disruption, behavioral problems, diabetes, and numerous problems of the nervous system, the immune system and the and gastrointestinal system.

The US Congress passed new amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 that were meant to better protect US citizens from breathing over 200 toxic chemicals including benzene, mercury, formaldehyde as well as many, many more. Since 1990 the US has come a lot further in their efforts cleaning up the air, but there are still many corporations that are considered high priority violators. Some of these have been shut down, while others were just warned, yet there are still many companies adding to the current quality of air that we breathe.

Image credits:
Smoke Stack

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