Exposure to Air Pollution Linked to Genetic Abnormalities
Polluted air is all around us. It's outside, it's inside,
and unless you live in an isolated and pristine locale, it's
pretty much unavoidable. Fortunately, for the inside your
home, where studies have shown the air is most polluted --
an average of 2-5 times more polluted than outside! -- you
will learn how you can dramatically reduce the amount of toxins
to much safer levels.
As for city versus country, though, neither is "safe."
If you live in a city, the air you breathe is subjected to
toxins from industry, construction and exhaust from cars,
buses and planes. In the country, the air gets polluted from
dust, car, truck and tractor exhaust, pesticide dusters, rock
quarries and smoke from wood and crop fires.
Those of us living in the most polluted cities may
have a year or two shaved off our lives!
And all this pollution is affecting our health. One study
published in the February 2005 issue of the journal Cancer
Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention found that pregnant
women in New York exposed to high levels of air pollution
are more likely to have babies with genetic abnormalities
linked to cancer than pregnant women exposed to lower levels.
In fact, children born to women who were exposed to the highest
level of air pollutants (the air pollutants measured in the
study were combustion-related pollutants, which typically
come from car exhaust) had about 50 percent more genetic abnormalities
than children whose mothers were exposed to lower levels.
Said the senior author of the study, Dr. Frederica Perera,
director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health
at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health,
these pollutants "are very pervasive in the urban environment,
so we have no reason to think the results are not relevant
to other populations in urban areas."
Air Pollution's Effect on You
About 4 percent of deaths in the United States can be attributed
to air pollution, according to the Environmental Science Engineering
Program at the Harvard School of Public Health. And, alarmingly,
in the most polluted cities it has been
estimated that lives are shortened by an average of one to
two years, according to research by the American Cancer
Society and Harvard University.
Generally speaking, air pollution affects everyone a little
bit differently. Certain groups, like children, the elderly
and people with heart disease or lung disease (air pollution
primarily affect the body's respiratory and circulatory systems),
are particularly at risk.
Possible Health Impacts from Exposure to Polluted
Eye, throat and lung irritation
Increased upper respiratory infections such as
bronchitis and pneumonia
Chronic respiratory disease
Adverse neurological, reproductive and developmental
Genetic abnormalities in newborns
What Can be Done?
Unfortunately, you cannot choose what outside air you breathe,
short of relocating to an area that's untouched by industry
and other pollutants. However, according to the Natural Resources
Defense Council (NRDC), "Perhaps the most significant
action an individual can take is to limit the use of fireplaces
and wood burning stoves ... Carpooling, recycling, maintaining
automobiles, and insulating homes can [also] make a big difference."
Indoor Air is Even MORE Polluted
Even if you can't control the air you breathe outside your
home, you can control the air inside. You may be surprised
to learn that the Environmental Protection Agency says indoor
air can be anywhere from two to five times as polluted as
outdoor air -- and sometimes more than 100 times more polluted!
Indoor air can be two to 100 times more polluted than
outdoor air, so it is wise to make keeping your home's
air clean a top priority.
Toxins in indoor air can stem from a number of sources, including:
Says Rob Watson, senior scientist and green building expert
at the NRDC, "Enemy number one of indoor air quality
is moisture," which can spur mold growth that's tough
on the respiratory system. He recommends leaving windows open
when showering or cooking, but added that "a more effective
tactic for controlling moisture is using bathroom and laundry
room fans, which can be set to timers to run intermittently
throughout the day." The fans must be vented to the outdoors,
however, and should not simply re-circulate the air.
People spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, so having
clean air inside should be a top priority. That's why, according
to leading health organizations like the American Lung Association,
with the rapidly growing volume of air pollution in the home,
having a high-quality air purifier is as crucial as having
clean drinking water.
What to Look for in an Air Purifier
The challenge with most air filters or purifiers is that
air must be drawn to the unit, either through natural air
flow, or through the use of a fan. This method results in
uneven treatment and can leave pockets of polluted air, plus
fans are noisy, subject to failure, and require higher levels
to Determine if You May Have Biological Pollutants in Your
Resources Defense Council
Air Quality News