July 16, 2018 in Vida Sana, a non-profit organization. You can read the article below.
‘There is a major lack of legislation on indoor air pollution’
Society is not yet aware of the higher levels of pollution in their homes than in the streets. People are responsible for the indoor air pollution they generate themselves. Air quality expert Carles Surià says there is a lack of legislation and information on indoor air pollution and he puts forward several solutions.
If we spend most of our time indoors, why don’t we worry more about the air we breathe at home or in the office? Many of the legislated outdoor air pollutants have much higher indoor air values.
This is what Carles Surià, an expert engineer in air quality measurements, is asking himself, and he explains that society is not yet aware of the level of pollution that exists inside their homes, which is higher than in the streets. A study carried out 30 years ago already showed that external pollutants such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, benzopyrene and benzene were 2 to 5 times higher in enclosed areas.
“There is a major lack of legislation on indoor air pollution, especially in housing, and this is because residents are responsible for the indoor air pollution they generate themselves,” says Carles Surià. In this situation, the expert questions why administrations do not provide more information on risks or how to act. “Why do governments not extend the quality standards of consumer products to ensure that they do not emit pollutants into the interior space? It is clear that reducing indoor pollution would reduce health care costs.
According to Surià, these concentrations of toxins, which are higher in the interior spaces, are due to insufficient ventilation and also to an artificial environment caused by the plastics and synthetic materials in the home, which causes an electrostatically charged environment to be generated that increases the concentration of dust in the interior environment. The harmful substances that are generated adhere to this dust and remain in the air.
Among the most common pollutants with higher household values are:
–Organic substances: for example, solvents or aromatic hydrocarbons, which cause respiratory problems, eye and throat irritation, dizziness, irritability and difficulty in concentration.
–Radon gas: is the second cause of lung cancer. Naturally problematic in areas with granitic soils such as Galicia or with sandstone such as El Maresme (Barcelona). Users increase this pollutant by insufficiently ventilating and introducing radon-emitting materials into the home, such as granite in kitchens.
–Biological contamination: for example, fungi and mites, which cause effects on the respiratory tract. Their presence is increasing in homes as homes are rehabilitated and thermal insulation is increased to save energy without due precaution. It is frequently reformed without allowing water vapour permeability, which condenses on cold facade walls where fungi expand. In these spaces the humidity increases and the appropriate conditions are formed for the proliferation of mites in mattresses or curtains.
–Domestic dust: Penetrate the respiratory system with breathing. They are among the worst pollutants for human health and more frequent the more electrostatic charge there is in the environment. The finest particles can reach the pulmonary alveoli and from there carry harmful substances in very sensitive areas and aggravate pathologies.
The solution? Carles Surià comments that there is a wide scope for action and that some of the solutions would involve correct ventilation habits, the reduction of indoor pollution sources such as furniture and artificial building materials, tobacco smoke, non-biodegradable cleaning products or carpets, relative humidity control, plants for purifying environments with low humidity, installation of extractors in bathrooms and kitchens, as well as periodic controls of indoor air quality, the promotion of electric cookers and information campaigns. As far as possible, incorporate night ventilation to avoid the accumulation of moisture generated during sleep.