Indoor Biological Pollutants
Outdoor air pollution in cities is a major
health problem. Much effort and money continues to be spent
cleaning up pollution in the outdoor air. But air pollution
can be a problem where you least expect it, in the place you
may have thought was safest--your home. Many ordinary activities
such as cooking, heating, cooling, cleaning, and redecorating
can cause the release and spread of indoor pollutants at home.
Studies have shown that the air in our homes can be even more
polluted than outdoor air.
Many Americans spend up to 90 percent of their
time indoors, often at home. Therefore, breathing clean indoor
air can have an important impact on health. People who are inside
a great deal may be at greater risk of developing health problems,
or having problems made worse by indoor air pollutants. These
people include infants, young children, the elderly, and those
with chronic illnesses.
Some common indoor biological pollutants are:
Animal Dander (minute scales from hair, feathers,
Dust Mite and Cockroach parts
Infectious agents (bacteria or viruses)
Health Effects Of Biological Pollutants
All of us are exposed to biological pollutants. However, the
effects on our health depend upon the type and amount of biological
pollution and the individual person. Some people do not experience
health reactions from certain biological pollutants, while others
may experience one or more of the following reactions:
Except for the spread of infections indoors, ALLERGIC REACTIONS
may be the most common health problem with indoor air quality
in homes. They are often connected with animal dander (mostly
from cats and dogs), with house dust mites (microscopic animals
living in household dust), and with pollen. Allergic reactions
can range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening, as
in a severe asthma attack.
Some common signs and symptoms are:
Health experts are especially concerned about people with asthma.
These people have very sensitive airways that can react to various
irritants, making breathing difficult. The number of people
who have asthma has greatly increased in recent years. The number
of people with asthma has gone up by 59 percent since 1970,
to a total of 9.6 million people. Asthma in children under 15
years of age has increased 41 percent in the same period, to
a total of 2.6 million children. The number of deaths from asthma
is up by 68 percent since 1979, to a total of almost 4,400 deaths
INFECTIOUS DISEASES caused by bacteria and viruses, such as
flu, measles, chicken pox, and tuberculosis, may be spread indoors.
Most infectious diseases pass from person to person through
physical contact. Crowded conditions with poor air circulation
can promote this spread. Some bacteria and viruses thrive in
buildings and circulate through indoor ventilation systems.
For example, the bacterium causing Legionnaire's disease, a
serious and sometimes lethal infection, and Pontiac Fever, a
flu-like illness, have circulated in some large buildings."
Enviromental Protection Agency, 2002
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