Fitness of the 20s until the Age of 70

 A Quarterly e-Newsletter

Issued by 20to70 Campaign and Edited by Dr. Hatem H Eleishi

Founder & Leader of the Campaign


 Issue No. 3                       October 2009



What is indoor air pollution?

Indoor air pollution related to construction and furniture of the house

Indoor air pollution due to causes in the kitchen and bathroom

Indoor air pollution due to causes in bedrooms, living rooms and also in offices

Indoor air pollution due to inhabitants themselves

Things You Can Do To Breathe Healthier Air Indoors


What is indoor air pollution?

Air pollution is the introduction into the atmosphere of substances, pollutants, that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or that damage the natural environment. We might all be familiar with outdoor air pollution caused by motor vehicles and factories for example and with its adverse effects on our health especially on our lungs.


However, some of us might not be familiar with indoor air pollution which is pollution of the indoor air where we actually spend 80-90% of our lives; we work, study, eat, drink and sleep in enclosed environments where air circulation may be restricted. Some experts feel that more people suffer from the effects of indoor air pollution than outdoor pollution with the most important effects being respiratory problems especially allergies, irritability, headaches and nausea.


In this issue of 20to70 newsletter, we will describe the most common causes of indoor air pollution, their diverse potential sources and will give the best prescriptions that will help our readers mitigate the effects of those health hazards and enjoy a healthier breath at their homes and offices.

There are many sources for indoor air pollution. Some of these are related to the construction of the home or office itself or their furniture, some related to the kitchen and bathroom, some related to the living room and bedrooms while some are related to the living inhabitants of the home or office whether these are humans, pets or plants.

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Indoor air pollution related to construction and furniture of the house:

One: Poorly ventilated facilities: A lack of ventilation indoors concentrates air pollutants and allows them to accumulate more than they would otherwise occur in nature.

Two: Furniture and building materials: including carpeting and plywood emit volatile organic compounds.

Three: Lead paint: can degenerate into dust and be inhaled and lead to lead poisoning which causes abdominal pain and neuropathy.

Four: Asbestos: Many common building materials used before 1975 contain asbestos. Normally significant releases of asbestos fiber do not occur unless the building materials are disturbed, such as by cutting, sanding, drilling or building remodelling. Inhalation of asbestos fibers over long exposure times is associated with lung diseases including lung cancer.

Five: Basements and floor levels: Radon gas specially accumulates in those two spaces. Radon gas is a carcinogen that is implicated in tens of thousands of cases of lung cancer each year worldwide. It is found naturally in rock formations beneath buildings or in certain building materials themselves. It is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking. It is exuded from the Earth through pores and cracks in concrete and trapped inside houses especially at basements and floor levels as it is a heavy gas. This happens especially when indoor air pressure is less than the pressure of gasses in the soil.

Six:  Kerosene heaters, fireplaces: these can produce carbon monoxide and particulate matter in the air.

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Indoor air pollution due to causes in the kitchen and bathroom:

Seven: Improperly maintained heating appliances as gas stoves, improperly ventilated wood stoves: combustion of fuels (wood, gas, coal) in those appliances will produce various combustion products as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.

Eight: Vents and chimneys: carbon monoxide poisoning and fatalities are often caused by faulty vents and chimneys. Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning can result even from poorly adjusted pilot lights.

 Nine: Moist conditions: Moisture problems such as water leaks cause mold growth that releases allergenic spores into the air that cause asthma in susceptible individuals.

Ten: Sewer gases: improperly maintained sewer pipes can produce the bad smelling hydrogen sulfide gas.  

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Indoor air pollution due to causes in bedrooms, living rooms and also in offices:  

Eleven: Bedding: (and also carpeting and some furniture) that provide warm and humid conditions might contain dust mites. Mites produce enzymes and micrometer-sized fecal droppings and are implicated in several forms of skin and lung allergies.

Twelve: Household products: Household products with organic chemicals (volatile organic compounds) as ingredients are another source of indoor air pollution. These include paints, varnishes, wax, solvents and fuels as well as cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing products, hair sprays and some hobby products. All of these products can release their organic compounds during usage, and, to some degree, when they are stored.

Thirteen: Pesticides, Air fresheners, incense

Fourteen: Dry cleaning fluids: Clothing emits harmful compounds (tetrachloroethylene) for days after dry cleaning.

Fifteen: Air conditioning systems: Air conditioning systems with poor maintenance and showerheads in bathrooms can incubate a certain type of bacteria (Legionella ) that grows in slow-moving or still warm water and that can cause a severe form of lung infection (pneumonia).

Sixteen: Office equipment: such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, photographic solutions and electrical and telephone cables. All those equipments emit volatile organic compounds  

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Indoor air pollution due to inhabitants themselves:

Seventeen: Humans: Humans produce carbon dioxide during respiration. Carbon dioxide correlates with human metabolic activity. Its levels would be higher in rooms and in indoor areas where there is relative overcrowding. At unusually high levels indoors, carbon dioxide may cause occupants to grow drowsy, get headaches, or function at lower activity levels.

In addition, some humans smoke indoors. Smoking releases carbon monoxide.

Eighteen: pets produce dander that can allow the growth of mold. Mold is implicated in respiratory diseases. 

Nineteen Houseplants, soil and surrounding gardens: these can produce pollen, dust and mold that would trigger allergic attacks in susceptible individuals.

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Things You Can Do To Breathe Healthier Air Indoors


Awareness: Educators in schools and universities should teach students, beginning at very young ages, about the effects of air pollution, outdoor and indoor.

Read Safety Instructions: Most household products come with instructions about safe use. In case a potentially toxic substance is incorporated by any means in that product, you will find among the safety instructions data about toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill handling procedures.

Ventilation: Adequate ventilation is the key to controlling exposure to indoor air pollution. Home and work environments should be monitored for adequate air flow and proper exhaust systems installed. Also indoor air will be healthier than outdoor air if you use an energy recovery ventilator (vide infra) to provide a consistent supply of fresh filtered air. Energy Recovery Ventilation exhausts pollutants and excess moisture to the outside, efficiently recovers heat from the exhaust stream during cold weather, and pre-cools and pre-dehumidifies incoming air during hot, muggy weather.

Energy Recovery Ventilation is the process of exchanging the energy contained in normally exhausted building air and using it to treat the incoming outdoor ventilation air in residential and commercial HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditions) systems.

Building materials: Building materials should be reviewed with constructing engineers for potential harmful effects.

Radon mitigation methods: the most important measure here is sealing any potential air leaks in the shell of your home. This includes sealing of concrete slab floors, basement foundations as well as water drainage systems. They are usually cost effective and can greatly reduce or even eliminate the contamination and the associated health risks. The half life for radon is 3.8 days, indicating that once the source is removed, the hazard will be greatly reduced within a few weeks.

Management of mites: Regular washing of mattresses and blankets with hot water

Remediation for the microbe Legionella: adequate maintenance of  air conditioning systems and replacement of shower heads every few months.

Sewer gases: Traps should be built into all domestic plumbing to keep the sewer gas, hydrogen sulfide, out of interiors.


Cigarette smoke: Avoiding smoking at home and restricting smoking in workplaces is an important key to a healthier environment. Legislation to control smoking is in effect in many work places.

Management of mold growth: Since mold is always associated with moisture, its growth can be inhibited by keeping humidity levels below 50%. Note: The optimal relative humidity levels for human occupancy lie between 30% and 50%. At higher levels, sweating is less effective so we feel hotter; thus the desire to remove humidity from air with air conditioning in the summer. At lower levels (occurs in winter when heating cold outdoor air), the skin feels dry and we feel excessive thirst.


Live Green: Grow houseplants at your home and office. Houseplants can improve indoor air quality. They can reduce components of indoor air pollution, particularly volatile organic compounds. The compounds are removed primarily by soil microorganisms. Houseplants also rid the room of pollutants generated by furnaces, stoves and smoking as carbon monoxide. They also appear to reduce airborne microbes. In addition they remove carbon dioxide and add oxygen to the room's air by the process of photosynthesis and also add humidity to the air by the process of transpiration. Both of these factors make the air healthier for us to breathe. Interestingly, most of the houseplants that you need are inexpensive and readily available.

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For further reading:

Visit the site of the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate (ISIAQ) formed in 1991. The society organizes two major conferences, the Indoor Air and the Healthy Buildings series.  ISIAQ's journal Indoor Air is published 6 times a year and contains peer-reviewed scientific papers with an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies including exposure measurements, modeling, and health outcomes.


Additional information is also available on the website:


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