Indoor air quality in buildings across the United States is fairly poor, and not where it should be, despite improvements made in recent years. About 90 percent of our days are spent inside during the cooler months, so it’s no surprise that people are getting sick, and it’s not from COVID, flu, or any other seasonal virus. Although, the COVID-19 pandemic is directly related to indoor air quality, as the Biden administration discussed in a recently-held Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) summit. Surprisingly, the EPA does not regulate IAQ, which may be a major problem behind recent developments.
Source: The Union Herald/YouTube
Ashisha Jha, M.D., the White House’s COVID response coordinator, stressed that “we can’t emerge from this pandemic not having done this, not having tackled this topic” – referring to the importance of focusing on IAQ not just to prevent illness, but also for the general health and safety of all Americans. IAQ can be affected by things that you can see, such as mold, and things that you cannot see, such as invisible pollutants. The toxicity caused by the IAQ in certain buildings can cause individuals to become very sick, sometimes with persistent coughs and other issues that seem symptomatic of colds, but are signs of something more long-term.
Among the worst airborne pollutants are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as benzene and formaldehyde, which are gaseous and often odorless. VOCs can be found in everything from personal care products like deodorant to compressed wood. While VOCs can sometimes cause mild symptoms, such as those typically associated with allergies and colds, they can also be associated with serious illnesses, including different types of cancer. Gas stoves can severely affect the IAQ, especially in one’s home; this increases the likelihood of asthma among children, as the PM2.5 airborne particles released by the stoves’ nitrogen dioxide can irritate one’s lungs.
In addition, poor IAQ has been linked to several autoimmune diseases, as long-term exposure to harmful pollutants increases an individual’s likelihood of developing high blood pressure, lung diseases, and other chronic illnesses. Air pollution has also been discovered in fetuses, which can lead to difficult pregnancies and/or births, and even pregnancy termination.
Fortunately, new science has improved air filtration technology, yet it’s not quite enough. That’s one thing that the IAQ summit hopes to address, and something that Dr. Jha and his colleagues will address. The Biden administration’s recent passage of The American Rescue Plan and the CARES Act should improve the accessibility of upgraded technology, yet much of it is still rather expensive.
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