Winter is a beloved and nostalgic season, with holiday traditions and time spent with family and friends. However, winter snow and holiday parties can keep you indoors for extended periods of time.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and there are several initiatives you can take to prevent lung conditions. There are plenty of health problems in response to low indoor air quality, most notably lung cancer and respiratory diseases, which makes perfect sense considering your lungs need clean air to support your wellbeing.
The many hours spent in your apartment can be both a blessing and a curse. If you find yourself stuck inside—whether because of bad weather or because of good company and dinner parties—you may be trapped with indoor air pollution. Depending on your apartment’s air quality, you should know how to prepare for the season, so the air itself won’t be detrimental to your health. Here’s what you should pay attention to:
Air Quality and Your Health
The air we breathe has a bigger impact on our health than we know. Air pollution, though broadly connected to outdoor environmental issues, can be just as alarming in your apartment. However, the good news is that this is completely solvable; you have the power to improve your indoor air quality and, in turn, boost your overall health.
Poor air quality essentially refers to air that is contaminated with particles of many types. These toxins are quite common, and you can learn how to identify and get rid of them.
Toxins to Be Aware of
Mold can be found in the shower, on the walls, in your washing machine, carpet, wood products, or basically anywhere moisture can accumulate. There are a variety of mold species, properly referred to as fungi, which grow with diverse textures and colors. Be especially cautious if you have a diffuser.
The symptoms of mold poisoning include a runny nose, allergic reactions, breathing issues, sneezing, watery eyes, itchy throat, and excess fatigue. Those who have weakened immune systems are more susceptible to contracting infections. Not only is mold unattractive (black, grimy, and/or velvety patches in your apartment), but it can depreciate the value of your place, cause sickness to infants and the elderly, and ruin furniture.
Asbestos was once an incredibly popular material, used largely for its heat and electricity-resistant properties, durability, soundproofing abilities, and low cost. Since it was easily broken and manipulated, it could be used in roofing, floor tiles, insulation, cement, and construction materials. If your apartment was built before the 1980s, it most likely has asbestos.
Mesothelioma cancer is directly correlated to the ingestion or inhalation of asbestos fibers and it primarily affects the lung region. If these microscopic fibers become airborne and are inhaled, they can latch onto your internal organs.
If your apartment is older or under construction, it may be worthwhile looking into. One percent of asbestos is still allowed in U.S. manufacturing today, so there is still a rare chance of which you should be aware.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is dangerous because it is a colorless and odorless gas. Lanterns, heaters, gas stoves, and anything with combustion flames are sources for this toxin. Unlike mold, there are no clear indicators for CO. Your apartment must have a CO detector, so contact your landlord if it doesn’t and ask for one to be installed immediately.
The symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, confusion, vomiting, chest pain, dizziness, weakness, and more.
Radon is a carcinogenic gas that is naturally forming. When there are cracks or holes in the foundation of your building, this gas can seep through and progress to dangerous levels.
In small doses, radon is practically harmless. Though if a building is constructed on soil with uranium, where radon is produced, it can lead to radiation exposure.
Radiation can destroy cells in the lining of your lungs. Consequently, those who have been in contact with radon are more prone to lung cancer.
Formaldehyde is a prevalent home toxin often used in building materials and household products. This chemical has the ability to vaporize at room temperature.
Like CO, it is also a byproduct of combustion processes. Renters who have fireplaces should be mindful of formaldehyde as it is formed from burning natural gas, tobacco, and wood. It’s also discovered in wood paneling, carpets, insulation, certain fabrics, and improperly vented appliances: kerosene heaters and gas stoves.
Some may experience difficulty in breathing, sinus and eye irritation and burning, asthma attacks, and it was recognized as a carcinogen in 1987.
How to Prevent Exposure
With this knowledge in mind, there are plenty of ways you can tackle these problems. You should try to keep air circulating to reduce the concentration of a particular toxin. Appliances, small rooms, kitchens, and other areas that may contain any of these carcinogens should always have ventilation.
Additionally, in the case of asbestos or mold, there are abatement professionals who can identify and appropriately handle this situation. You can also have your apartment tested for formaldehyde, CO, and radon, which are all undetectable to human senses.
If you plan on cooking throughout the holiday season, you should check the batteries in your smoke detector, to make sure you will be alerted in case of potential fires. Keep alert; this will stop you from inhaling smoke, which induces eye, nose, and throat irritation, respiratory illnesses, and asthma.
As tedious as it may sound, take the time throughout the year to give your place a deep clean. Mold and dust can hide in unlikely places. Communicating with your landlord and testing your apartment—even if you aren’t sure—is much better than dealing with the ramifications of ignoring poor air quality.