Good Air Quality Is An Important Part Of Staying Healthy, Especially For The Elderly
Breathing fresh air is necessary for life. But do you know why good air quality is so important for the elderly? In this article, Pegasus caregiver professionals in Agoura Hills and elsewhere explain the effects of air pollution on your health.
The level of air pollution is described by the Air Quality Index (AQI). You can find the daily AQI in newspapers and other media weather reports. The AQI is expressed as a number between one and 500.
The higher the number, the greater the amount of pollution. A number above 100 means you should stay inside if you are elderly or have a medical condition. A number above 300 means the air is unhealthy for most people.
The AQI measures outside levels of the following pollutants:
- Ground-level ozone – primarily smog
- Particulate matter – typically solid particles or liquid droplets of smoke, soot, dust, etc.
- Carbon monoxide – odorless, colorless gas resulting from combustion
- Sulfur dioxide – a toxic gas primarily caused by burning fossil fuels
- Nitrogen dioxide – generated by fuel-burning
These pollutants can also be part of indoor air. Heat sources and appliances that have not been correctly installed or ventilated are the usual culprits.
Construction materials can also contribute to unhealthy indoor air quality. These include asbestos, formaldehyde, lead, and VOCs, which are chemicals used in products such as paint. Home furnishings can also release harmful chemicals and particulates.
Cleaning products, pesticides, and personal care items like hairspray can pollute indoor air. You can reduce the levels of pollution by using them in well-ventilated areas and following manufacturers’ instructions.
Short-term effects of poor air quality may include fatigue, congestion, or headaches. Those symptoms can be mistakenly attributed to having a cold, allergy, or the flu. If the pollution isn’t reduced, it leads to long-term effects that may not be discovered until too late.
Second-Hand Tobacco Smoke Is Especially Dangerous
Indoor tobacco smoke destroys air quality. Second-hand tobacco smoke, which is the smoke exhaled by smokers, is especially dangerous. It contains thousands of toxic substances and has been classified as a carcinogen.
If you or family members must smoke, it’s essential to do so outdoors. Opening room or car windows do not provide protective ventilation. Any exposure to second-hand smoke can be harmful to health.
Second-hand smoke increases the risk of:
- Heart disease
- Lung cancer
Exposing children to second-hand smoke can cause sudden infant death syndrome. In both children and adults, it can cause respiratory illnesses such as asthma or worsen existing conditions.
Particulates Create The Most Pollution
Studies have shown that air quality has declined in recent years. Not only does that have a deleterious effect on health, but it has also led to thousands of premature deaths. The biggest source of pollution, indoors or outdoors, is particulate matter.
The tiny particles take up residence within the lungs. Normal exhaling and coughing don’t expel them. The particles can permanently scar lung tissue, creating breathing difficulties, especially in individuals with respiratory illnesses.
Air pollution makes individuals with hypertension (high blood pressure) especially susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. Research also shows that air pollution weakens bones, leading to osteoporosis and fractures.
Scientists have also found a link between air pollution and bladder cancer and urinary diseases. It’s also been linked to an increased risk of dementia. Bad air is known to increase inflammation, which increases the risk of most diseases.
You Can Improve The Air You Breathe
You have three primary ways of reducing indoor air pollution. They are:
- Eliminating the source
- Improving ventilation
- Using air cleaners
As you might guess, these are often not as simple as they appear.
Eliminating the source means that you first have to determine the source. That’s not always an easy matter. It can also be expensive.
For example, insulation in older homes contained formaldehyde. So do cabinets made from pressed wood, such as particleboard. The formaldehyde levels decrease over time, but can still contribute to air pollution.
Read the labels carefully on products you purchase. You’ll probably pay more for products without VOCs, but doing so eliminates a source of pollution. If you use a dry cleaner, patronize one that removes excess perchloroethylene.
Ventilation is helpful if the outdoor air is cleaner than your indoor air. Keep in mind that ventilation can increase your energy costs. The more heating/cooling energy you use, the more you add to outdoor air pollution.
You can select from a variety of air cleaners. The best air cleaners have a high-efficiency percentage and a high cubic feet per minute rate. Those numbers reflect how much pollutant is collected and how much air is cleaned, respectively.
Air purifiers with a HEPA filter have also shown positive results in removing particulates. Don’t forget to replace the filter regularly.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. We’re here for you when you need a caregiver in Agoura Hills or our other locations. Please join us in creating “Better Air, Better Health” during Air Quality Awareness Week, May 4 – 8, 2020.