Breathing quality indoor air is critical for good health. Most Americans spend a significant amount of time indoors--either in the home, office or other types of buildings--where gas, chemical and other pollutants can cause headaches, eye irritation, allergies and fatigue. Serious pollutants can cause certain types of cancers and other long-term health complications.
Clean air can prevent many environmental health hazards such as asthma, which according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, affects 25 million people, including 7 million children in a given year. Asthma accounts for nearly 17 million physician office and hospital visits.
Common indoor air pollutants include:
- Second hand smoke: A serious indoor air pollutant which can worsen symptoms for asthma sufferers, increase risks of ear infections in children and increase risks for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
- Radon: A dangerous gas pollutant identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer, Radon enters homes through cracks and other improperly sealed openings.
- Combustion Pollutants including carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide: These gases come from burning materials or improperly vented fuel-burning appliances such as space heaters, wood stoves, gas stoves, water heaters, dryers and fireplaces.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas which is not easily detectable by human senses, and interferes with oxygen delivery throughout the body. Carbon monoxide causes headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea; and toxic amounts can lead to death.
Nitrogen dioxide, which is also a colorless and odorless gas causes eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, and increased risk for respiratory infections.
Indoor air quality is a critical public health issue that continues to be addressed at the local, state and federal levels. Recognizing the importance of air quality, states such as Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin have implemented broadly encompassing legislation to address health concerns.
In Wisconsin, a statewide indoor smoking ban has already improved air quality in restaurants and bars by more than 90 percent, according to findings from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health. Before the law, air quality in 21 percent of all tested establishments was rated hazardous, the most dangerous level according to standards set by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. After the law was enacted, over 97 percent of restaurants and bars had good or satisfactory air quality ratings.
Indoor air quality continues to be a critical concern that requires immediate action from governments and homeowners alike.