Healthy Habits: Breathe Clean Air
In This Article:
Why Breathe Clean Air?
The earth is currently home to about 6,000 billion tons of air.1 Quantity-wise, we're doing fine. Quality, however, is another story. If you're concerned about staying healthy, it's time to think about what kind of air you're feeding yourself.
Much of the air we breathe outdoors is dirty. Here are some "breathtaking" facts:
- According to the American Lung Association, 164 million U.S. citizens (two-thirds of our population) breathe air that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers unhealthy.2
- In the Los Angeles area, for instance, air pollution fallout amounts to 10 million pounds a day cough, gag!3
The EPA considers indoor air pollution one of the top environmental problems.
Pollution levels According to Ron White, senior program manager for the American Lung Association's Air Conservation and Occupational Health Program, "Typical indoor levels of pollutants can be up to 20 times higher than outdoor levels."4 Also, tests done by the EPA confirm that indoor levels of toxic chemical pollution are much greater than outdoor pollution, even in our biggest cities.5
Related medical costs As far back as 1989 the EPA issued a report in which they estimated that eight of the most common indoor air pollutants cost the nation more than $1 billion in medical costs from cancer and heart disease.6
Toxic chemicals The products found in average American households across the country contain a combined total of some 63,000 different chemicals. Many of these chemicals are toxic, becoming more so as they interact with each other inside a closed environment.7
Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical widely used in building products and household goods as a bonding agent and preservative. Many pressed-wood products such as plywood, particle board, paneling, cabinets, furniture, and countertops contain this chemical. So do some shampoos, lipsticks, toothpastes, eye makeups, perfumes, hairsprays, nail polishes, soaps, toilet tissue, milk cartons, car bodies, household disinfectants, curtains, carpets, upholstery fabrics, linens, and insulation. "Formaldehyde puts the 'permanent' in permanent press clothing and the 'strength' in wet-strength paper towels."8
Radon A naturally occurring radioactive gas, radon may be contaminating as many as 10 percent of the homes in the United States. In some parts of the country, this number may be higher. It is a colorless, odorless gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in rock and soil. It enters structures through cracks in their foundations, and unless somehow dispersed, can lead to lung damage and cancer. In fact, radon is second only to smoking as a leading cause of lung cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that radon causes 20,000 to 30,000 deaths a year.9
Tobacco smoke Tobacco smoke is a common indoor pollutant. Every year about 467,000 tons of tobacco are burned indoors, based upon the fact that Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, and smoke annual totals of 600 billion cigarettes, 4 billion cigars, and 11 billion pipefuls of tobacco.10
Leaded paint Leaded paint may be a problem in most homes built before 1950. In fact, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) suspects that 74 percent of all private dwellings built before 1980 have some amount of lead paint on their walls. If lead dust is inhaled, it can cause significant cellular damage and a host of health problems.11
From HEALTHY HABITS: 20 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health by David J. Frahm as used by arrangement with Jeremy P. Tarcher, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2003 by David and Anne Frahm. All rights reserved.
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