Indoor Air Quality

Clearing The Air

indoor air and asthma
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When it comes to assessing your family’s indoor air environment during Lockdown there are 5 categories of concern to consider! South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs is not concerned with residential indoor air quality! As a result, we need to learn what indoor air quality is from America’s Environmental Protection Agency. They have identified 5 danger levels of indoor air quality. Indoor air quality is a major human health issue worldwide under normal conditions. However, indoor air quality and possible incidents of asthma attacks are worsened during Lockdown when you and your family are spending most of your time indoors.

Homes with windows and doors closed have a lack of adequate ventilation. In addition, the lack of airbricks, increased insulation and better-sealing windows and doors make new homes much more energy-efficient than older houses. As a result, in new homes, it is even more difficult to get fresh clean air into the home.

Danger level 5 – Carbon monoxide in indoor air

The first of the 5 categories is carbon monoxide in indoor air. Carbon monoxide causes mild health effects often mistaken for flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. High doses of carbon monoxide can be fatal!

Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by inhaling combustion fumes. It is produced by various fuel-burning appliances like paraffin lamps, gas heaters and wood and coal fires. Furthermore, don’t run your car’s engine or a generator in an enclosed space like the garage without good ventilation.

Danger level 4 – Microbial growth.

These are micro-organisms, fungal spores and mould. Mould is everywhere! However, when it is in abundance in indoor air, it can reach toxic levels and become a health hazard. Most high levels of mould are due to inadequate ventilation and moisture intrusion. Mould and mildew are musty smelling fungi which grow in moist stagnant air. Mould spores aggravate allergies. However, the number 1 allergen is faecal matter from dust mites which live off moisture in the air. Mild moulds can cause sinus and respiratory infections. While severe moulds can have serious consequences including infertility and death!

Danger level 3 – Allergens and particulates

Danger level 3 are allergens and particulates! Dust, pet dander, pollen, insect debris and smoke are microscopic organisms that float around in your home. Moreover, they collect on the top of your ceiling, in your airconditioning, and on curtains, bedclothes, walls and furniture. Keeping your house dry can make it difficult for them to collect. Filtering and cleaning your indoor air is important if allergens and particulates are abundant. Symptoms of high levels are nose and throat irritation, congestion, sneezing, coughing and asthma flare-ups.

Danger level 2 – Infectious illnesses

The 2nd danger level is infectious illnesses such as colds, flu, viruses, germs and bacteria. The germs, viruses and bacteria are brought in by animals and family members from the outside. Once in the house, they circulate the home. Isolate sick people present in the home during Lockdown!

Danger level 1 – Toxic compounds in indoor air

These are contaminants such as toxic compounds emitted by building materials, furniture, carpets, paints and cleaning chemicals. They can cause a toxic environment in your home that may cause an allergic reaction. Furthermore, if your home has inadequate ventilation, this can result in these toxic chemicals being trapped in your indoor air. Therefore, be careful with indoor toxins and external pollutants. These are pesticides, herbicides and naturals gases like methane. In addition, they can enter your home from gardens, garden rubbish and compost heaps.

How do these indoor air factors affect your health?

The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA)According reported that South Africa has the world’s fourth-highest asthma death rate. Furthermore, asthma in Southern Africa is the highest in Africa! More than 20% of school children across the region suffering from this condition. However, remember that this investigation and report were done under normal conditions!

With the Lockdown, indoor air conditions are now abnormal!

Therefore, it is especially important at this time for you to keep your house clean, dry and well ventilated.

Don’t allow the housework to fall behind!

  • After a shower or bath open bathroom windows and doors! This allows a through-draft to prevent mould from forming in your bathroom.
  • Don’t sleep with your bedroom windows and doors closed. Besides the danger of increased carbon dioxide levels in indoor air, it causes condensation on your windows. This may encourage mould growth!
  • When you are cooking keep the kitchen windows open. Steam and cooking vapours pollute the air and cause condensation on cooler surfaces!
  • Clean the filters of your extractors and air conditioners regularly.
  • Vacuum, sweep and dust floors, carpets, furniture and curtains regularly to get rid of dust and dust mites.
  • Repair cracked cornices to prevent dust filtering from the ceiling into the living areas.
  • Fix leaks in roofs, walls, kitchen and bathroom cupboards, and on ceilings to prevent damp and mould from forming.
  • If you light a gas or wood fire inside make sure that there is adequate ventilation.   

Keep safe and healthy at home!

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