Air quality indoors can be harmful too
Recently air quality and air pollution have been headline news, with reports on how major global cities will ban certain types of vehicles by 2025 due to the unacceptable levels of pollutants associated with them. In similar reports, studies have indicated that neurological conditions such as dementia can be correlated with living in close proximity to major roads.
The health risks associated with poor air quality are generally well accepted, and perhaps the most vulnerable members of our society are the elderly and the young.
The risks that potentially face the elderly can be exacerbated by co-morbidities, and other poor health conditions.
However the young are potentially at greater risk.
Most of us would feel relatively safe within the confines of our own homes, safe from most dangers and particularly from the excesses of air pollution. So how many of us would consider or question if we are also at risk from indoor air quality, and to add to that question, what about your children and babies?
In general residential indoor air quality is not monitored or regulated, and the levels of indoor air pollutants would not be generally known. Some of the most common sources that will reduce indoor air quality would include, solvents used in cleaning, construction materials, paints, cooking, smoking, plastics, and carpets. Solvents used in paint have been associated with increased risk of respiratory symptoms in children under five.
During the 1990’s the question of a link between infant mortality and air quality was investigated in a number of studies. Basically’ the studies looked at the mortality impact of airborne particulate matter which was small enough to penetrate the human respiratory tract. The general outcome of these investigations indicated infants living in areas with high levels of the pollutant particulates were at greater risk of mortality during the first year of life. Results that suggest a higher risk of infant mortality associated with particulate matter have been consistent, and the well-established link between particles and adult mortality further support those findings. Although a supportive link exists for the risks faced by adults and infants, the mechanisms of how poor air quality affects children may be quite different when compared to adults.
Biologically infants and young children are more susceptible to the deleterious effects of poor air quality. Infants have immature brains, lungs, and immune systems, and during the early period of life when these systems are constantly developing poor air quality and pollution can do the most harm. The immature respiratory system during this period of life is more permeable and so can be penetrated by harmful particles, compared to adults infants have a greater lung surface area in relation to weight and breathe 50% more air per kilo of body weight. More common in infants compared to adults is mouth breathing, which by its nature bypasses the filters of the nose and may pull air pollutants deeper into the respiratory system. Infants born prematurely may be particularly vulnerable to environmental conditions such as poor air quality due to the growth state of the lungs at birth.
Parents can take a degree of control in terms of making the indoor air quality less harmful to infants by controlling sources of air pollution. In understanding which and what house items can be harmful would allow parents to limit infant exposure to particular factors.
Mechanical devices can also be extremely useful to control the quality of air our infants will be exposed to, air purifiers, humidifiers/dehumidifiers, and HEPA filters will all help to reduce the harmful elements indoors that can adversely affect us.
Modern technology is making many of the devices effective, attractive for the home, and multifunctional too!