October is National Healthy Lung Month
Healthy Lung Month brings attention to the global concerns of pollution, air quality, and respiratory issues like COPD, asthma, and lung cancers. In support of patients, doctors, survivors, family members, caregivers, and lung health advocacy organizations working together to raise awareness, we’re sharing some information on common home contaminants along with some resources for improving your own lung health!
Help Your Lungs & Eliminate Contaminants
Hazardous Building Materials
When many people think about hazardous building materials, it is often associated with lead and asbestos. Lead was commonly used for plumbing fittings, pipes, and as an ingredient in paints. Lead is poisonous and causes developmental complications if ingested by children under six.
Asbestos in particular is a natural, fire-resistant mineral also known as the miracle mineral and was predominantly found as an additive in insulation products, roofing shingles, cements, and paints. Depending on the renovation history of a particular structure, it could still contain asbestos. With materials containing this asbestos mineral, any amount of damage to them can pose a serious health risk simply due to inhalation or ingestion of airborne asbestos particles. Exposure to asbestos can cause respiratory illnesses that develop in the lungs such as asbestosis, or mesothelioma. oth of these illnesses have similar latency periods, therefor, individuals often experience symptoms that mimic more common illnesses. A notable yet unfortunate difference between the two is the shorter life expectancy for mesothelioma patients, whereas asbestosis victims could live with their disease for decades.
Mesothelioma is 99% preventable by avoiding exposure to asbestos and still, asbestos is not entirely banned in the United States. To this day, grandfathered products are allowed to contain up to 1% of asbestos, so every homeowner-tenant should take the correct measures to have the property inspected by an asbestos specialist. If you suspect presence of any of these contaminants, seek professional help.
For residents of Oregon, consult this list of certified asbestos contractors.
For residents of Washington, consult this list of certified asbestos contractors.
Leaking Gas Appliances and Exhaust
From gas furnaces and stoves to vehicle and industrial exhaust, Carbon Monoxide is toxic, odorless, and released as a byproduct of combustion. Gas appliances can cause particular harm, especially if they’re not properly installed or vented. Traditionally, homeowners will notice the effects of low level CO poisoning by experiencing symptoms such as headaches, sinus sensitivities, dizziness, and vomiting which will cause them to leave the building. However, extremely high concentrations become deadly within minutes. Therefore, all homeowners and tenants should install and maintain CO detectors to alert occupants of any changing conditions.
What’s that smell? It could be common household cleaners, fuels, adhesives, and paints that are releasing toxic fumes and can be contributing to headaches, sinus sensitivities, and breathing complications. Inorganic chemicals found in common products cannot always be processed and eliminated from the body, leading them to build up over time. Known to cause serious organ damage and even cancers, prolonged exposure to inorganic toxins is not advised. High concentration exposure can cause dizziness, vomiting, blackouts, and even death. Although less common, chemical pneumonia can occur when harsh chemicals cause inflammation of the tissue surrounding the lungs. There are a number of determining factors when discussing the toxicity of specific chemicals, however a good rule of thumb is to treat every product as if it were dangerous and follow proper safety precautions.
Radioactive gases are released as a byproduct of decomposing soils and rocks. Although they are normally released safely into the atmosphere, radon for example, can enter a building through loose foundations or exposed soil basements. Although there are safe levels of exposure, long term contact with high levels of radon can cause lung cancer. Monitoring radon levels is less common that other gases, but just as important. Over 6 million homes are exposed to varying levels of radon and therefore every homeowner and tenants should be aware of the potential hazard, and monitor for any extreme fluctuations. If you would like to learn how to test your home for radon and for further information visit http://www.healthoregon.org/radon