It seems impossible, but we also pollute our homes

The health damage of indoor pollution

The health damage of indoor pollution

There's no escaping it: we too pollute our homes. And since we spend 90% of our time indoors, this is where we breathe in most of the pollutants. Contrary to what you might think, what emerges from an article in Focus magazine, indoor air is far from healthy and can be more polluted than outdoor air even in cities.

The reason is that in homes, offices, schools and gymnasiums, in addition to the dust and gases that enter from outside, through doors and windows, there are a myriad of other harmful molecules produced internally.

The European Commission's Scientific Committee on Environmental and Health Risks has counted 900 of them, dividing them by type, including those generated by combustion (of cigarettes, for example), volatile organic compounds (mentioned here) and allergens, linked to the presence of dust, mould and domestic animals.

European data and the consequences of cigarette smoking

European data and the consequences of cigarette smoking

Overall, it is estimated that 2.7% of diseases in Europe are related in some way to exposure to indoor pollution. These are mostly respiratory diseases (asthma, infections, allergies), cardiovascular diseases, but also some cancers. Unlike outdoor air pollution, however, individuals can do a lot to reduce the concentration of harmful molecules in the home.

According to the European Respiratory Society (ERS), the most effective measure to improve indoor air quality is not to smoke and not to allow others to smoke. Tests carried out in the homes of Europeans show that the concentrations of particulate matter, formaldehyde, benzene and other harmful substances in the homes of smokers are much higher. This is the case even when other major sources of pollution, such as pellet stoves, are present.

The importance of taking off your shoes when entering the house

The importance of taking off your shoes when entering the house

A recent study has also shown that the shoes we wear, with the dirt they bring with them, are another determinant of indoor pollution. Specifically, researchers found antibiotic-resistant pathogens on shoes and floors, residual asphalt toxins with carcinogenic properties, and endocrine disruptors (i.e., substances that interfere with the human endocrine system) used, for example, in garden chemicals.

In assessing household pollutants, the team of scientists also came across radioactive substances of industrial origin, microplastics often associated with carpets and paints (petroleum-derived fibres account for 39% of household dust) and PFAS, perfluoroacrylic acids widely used in industry, which have a high persistence in the environment and are indicated as risk factors for various diseases in the long term.

In short, the very first step towards better indoor air quality (and cleaner floors) is to take off your shoes at the entrance, before it is too late!

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