Would you say we are pretty far removed from our natural world? If you think about your current living environment, if you work from home, and live in Canada, do you spend quite a bit of time indoors, especially in the winter?
Our indoor environments are tightly sealed off from the natural world to conserve energy resources and with the rise of the industrial revolution, our infrastructures and processes for the building and manufacturing of products have changed drastically. As a result of this innovation, most buildings and homes are made from synthetic material or are sealed with harsh chemicals to preserve and maintain durability. With increasingly more time spent indoors, we become exposed to numerous toxins. The most common indoor air pollutants include carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds as well as small particulate matter.
Let's take a deeper dive into each of these toxins, what they are and how they can have an impact on our health.
Carbon Dioxide: Carbon Dioxide can be produced in indoor environments from not only building occupants, but heaters, gas stoves, fireplaces and furnaces. Chronic exposure to low levels of Co2 can lead to cognitive impairment especially in children and elderly populations (Azuma et al., 2018).
Formaldehydes: Sources of formaldehyde in the home include paper products, dishwashing liquids, fabric softeners, furniture, paints, coatings and lacquers. Exposure to formaldehyde can lead to irritation of the nose, eyes, throat and skin (Park and Ikeda, 2006). Those who suffer from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder can experience severe breathing problems (Park and Ikeda, 2006).
Volatile Organic Compounds: are gasses/fumes emitted from everyday items such as carpets, paints, furniture, plastics, tobacco, shampoos, conditioners, cleaning products, etc. Exposure can lead to headaches, dizziness, respiratory tract infections, central nervous system damage, breathlessness, decreased lung function, inflammation in the airways, pulmonary and airway infections in infants, increased risk of asthma (Rumchev, Brown and Spickett, 2007).
Small Particulate Matter: The dangers of inhaling small particulate matter are greater indoors where there is low ventilation and air purification. Some health effects include eye, nose and throat irritation, premature death for people who already have heart or lung disease as well as inflammation and aggravation of coronary and respiratory disease symptoms (Butler, Madhavan, Alper, 2016). Small particulate matter can be generated from combustible objects such as fires, smoke, cooking, candles and heaters (Butler, Madhavan, Alper, 2016).
So how do we make our health a priority when we spend most of our time indoors? Especially with the constant bombardment of synthetic products on our respiratory and nervous systems? Here are some quick tips:
Make sure your home or office space is well ventilated
Add high oxygen-producing plants to your space that also filter toxins and fine particulate matter
Invest in an Organic Air Purifier
Living Atmosphere Control Systems (LACS) is the first air cleaning system in the world that simultaneously increases oxygen levels, lowers CO2 levels, balances air humidity, and filters harmful particles without the use of replaceable filters. This truly sustainable technology offers more air benefits than HEPA filtration and costs less to install and operate.
Learn more about LACS here.
Health risks of indoor exposure to particulate matter: workshop summary. David Butler-Guruprasad Madhavan-Joe Alper - The National Academies Press - 2016
Kenichi Azuma, Naoki Kagi, U. Yanagi, Haruki Osawa, Effects of low-level inhalation exposure to carbon dioxide in indoor environments: A short review on human health and psychomotor performance, Environment International, Volume 121, Part 1,2018, Pages 51-56, ISSN 0160-4120, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2018.08.059.
Park J. and Ikeda R. 2006. Variations of formaldehyde and VOC levels during 3 years in new and older homes. Indoor Air. 16:129–135.
Rumchev,, K., Brown,, H. & Spickett,, J. (2007). Volatile Organic Compounds: Do they present a risk to our health?. Reviews on Environmental Health, 22(1), 39-56. https://doi.org/10.1515/REVEH.2007.22.1.39.