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Ever guessed how much these scents or odors are harmful to us. No matter they smell great, refreshes our home, keep our floors clean, start our day better, make our party rocking, create an amazing aura and let us feel in the seventh heaven, but in reality, their exposure and long term effect are detrimental, carcinogenic and close to fatal. And the main culprit is the VOC (Volatile organic compounds) present in them, which has long term devastating effects on us, acts as a slow poison and kills slowly.
What are VOCs?
VOC’s are organic chemicals with a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature and tend to evaporate or sublimate because of their low boiling point. These substances are made up of a combination of hydrogen and carbon atoms and tend to vaporize at room temperature by releasing odor, which can be sensed when levels go high. These VOCs are ubiquitous and insidious and their long term effects have a serious threat on the body, soul, and health.
Where are they found?
Few VOCs are natural while others are man-made. These are used in the production of various consumer products such as methylene chloride is used in paint removers, benzene is used in gasoline & furniture polish, benzene and butadiene are used in mosquito repellents, Octanal is used in Electrical diffuser, trichloroethylene is used in floor wipes, glass cleaner & carpet stain remover, methoxy and propanol are used in carpet cleaner and so on. Thus we can consider that these VOCs are present in all with an odor such as cleaners, soaps, paints, polishes, air fresheners, cleaning bonds, adhesives, nail polish, paint, thinner, etc. Few of them are also found in the surrounding environment such as in high traffic areas, surrounding busy roads, cluttered streets, etc. Also, VOCs are released when things are burnt or lit, maybe a cigarette, a candle or even a gas stove. These VOCs are also found in older buildings in the form of Formaldehyde.
Where’s the catch and why we are unaware?
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But, it doesn’t mean if we wouldn’t eat an apple a day we are going to have a heart attack the next day. So does it mean the saying is false or a myth? No, it’s not so. It affects, in the long run, depending upon one's immunity, body structure, eating habits, living environment, and a few other factors. But, one thing is for sure that it’s going to do the damage one day or the other if due diligence is not paid over a considerable period. The same is true for VOCs also. They don’t affect the first day, but if left unchecked for long, these VOCs are bound to enter our body through our nasal tract and settle in our lungs to prove fatal some day.
Let’s, for instance, take the case of mosquito repellents. They are a must for all homes as it’s difficult to imagine a home without it. But, did we know that VOCs as benzene, butadiene and many other human carcinogenic substances, are emitted by all mosquito coils while being used. Similarly, other consumable goods with VOCs which are persistently used have a killing impact when used for a longer period.
Research reports reveal that these VOCs enter the human body by metabolism, diffusion, and distribution in blood & fat tissues. And all this happens without our knowledge till their concentration increases substantially in our body and the symptoms start reflecting.
How VOCs could be avoided?
It’s not possible to avoid VOC’s, however, it’s exposure can be limited. VOCs could not be eliminated but can be controlled to a limited extent or better it should be avoided. Here are a few easy steps to be followed to go safe.
1) Natural Products – It’s advisable to use natural products wherever possible and feasible. It’s rather better to go for VOC-free consumables as thinners, paints, adhesives, bonds, etc.
2) Ventilated and open working areas – Exposure to VOCs can be avoided to a great extent by having ventilated homes and large working areas. Besides, exhaust fans could be installed to have better-controlled air flow.
3) Avoid In-house burning – Burning candles, grills, lamps, stoves, etc with propane should be avoided else there should be proper ventilation to limit VOC exposure.
4) Avoid Plastic materials – Plastic materials should be avoided as much as we can. Plastic should never be heated above room temperature unless it is meant for.
5) Install air quality monitor - A smart indoor air quality monitor is a must for all to detect VOC concentrations whether it’s home or office to immediately take remedial steps to control it.
The Effects of VOC Exposure
To get a headache while stuck in traffic is nothing new. Ever thought, why it happens so? Yes, you got it right, it’s because of exposure to benzene. Something similar happens after painting or polishing in an enclosed area when we started feeling nervous and light headed. All this happens because of exposure to VOCs and lead to different symptoms depending on duration of exposure. Let’s take them one by one and begin with short term symptoms of VOCs exposure. These exposures lead to
3) Visual disorders
4) Memory impairment
6) Irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract
The symptoms of high concentration VOCs and extended exposures are different and have long term health effect such as:
1) Damage to Liver, Kidney and central nervous system
2) Loss of coordination and chronic nausea
3) Chronic headaches
4) Persistent eye, nose and throat irritation
5) Cancer depending on type of VOC exposure
How to save ourselves from VOC?
It is advisable to maintain indoor air quality and install an air quality monitor to limit their exposure and keep a check on VOC concentration in house to safe guard ourselves from their harmful effects. The best remedy to save us is to avoid using things with high odour and install an air purifier to limit their toxic effects.
In nut shell, we can say that prevention is better than the cure. So, it’s better to have good air quality in nearby surroundings wherever we live. It should be tried to spend our time in safe, open and clean environment free from these VOCs and other harmful chemicals.
In addition, we should keep a check on the quality of the air we inhale, environment we live in and surrounding that envelopes us.
How to save ourselves from VOCs?
It is advisable to maintain indoor air quality and install an air quality monitor to limit their exposure and keep a check on VOC concentration in the house to safeguard ourselves from their harmful effects. The best remedy to save us is to avoid using things with high odor and install an air purifier to limit their toxic effects.
In a nutshell, we can say that prevention is better than cure. So, it’s better to have good air quality in nearby surroundings wherever we live. It should be tried to spend our time in a safe, open and clean environment free from these VOCs and other harmful chemicals. Besides, we should keep a check on the quality of the air we inhale, the environment we live in and surrounding that envelopes us.
Breathfresh Solutions, a Delhi based organisation is promoting healthier lifestyle by creating cleaner indoor air naturally and can be reached at https://breathefresh.in
Perhaps the biggest trigger of allergies in the spring season is pollen and there are millions of people around the globe that are affected by it and are forced to walk around with sneezing fits and irritated noses. Pollen are tiny grains released into the air by trees, plants and even weeds during the spring season which allows them to fertilize eggs and thus produce more plants. When people that are allergic to pollen come into contact with it, antibodies are released by their immune systems that attack their allergens. This leads to chemicals called histamines released into the blood streams triggering reactions such as sneezing, itching, and a running nose.
There are certain measures you can take to protect yourself against the effects of coming into contact with pollen the next time.
The first step to any cure is to diagnose the problem itself. Similarly, in order to protect yourself against the pollen that you are allergic to, you need to first figure out which type that is. There are more than thirty different types of pollen that are released from specific plants that can be located around your current location or the next place that you move to. Speak to your health professional and after considering your symptoms of hay fever and the test results you can figure out what type of pollen you are allergic to and then you can avoid it best.
Vaseline is your best friend when it comes to protecting your body against contact with pollen. Apply a small amount of Vaseline or any petroleum jelly around your nose can help trap pollen particles before they enter your nose in order to prevent them from entering your nostrils and triggering all the allergic reactions.
Keep it clean:
After any sort of day outside in the open, you should always come back home and take a proper shower washing your body, hair and completely changing all pieces of clothing. This will restrict the amount of pollen that you bring indoors. Additionally, you can use regular vacuuming and even cleaning the house with damp cloth to trap pollen and stop it from flying around in the atmosphere in your home. Keep your hands clean and do not dry your clothes outside in high pollen season to limit your contact with pollen.
Indoor air quality:
Using Air purifiers indoors can be of great help during pollen season and even throughout the year. The air pollution levels in the atmosphere around us are reaching dangerously high levels and using air purifiers is a great way to restrict the harmful effects this can have on our health and that of our loved ones around us.
Check pollen count:
Keep yourself informed and use pollen forecasts to gauge where and when pollen counts in the air are highest and try your best to avoid these areas. This can be a great way to also ensure that you do not get into contact with harmful pollutants. Always consider spending a day in the outdoors only on cooler and wet days which have a much lower level of pollen count.
There have been recent research into the subject of weather rising temperatures can have a troublesome effect on the younger generations. The test that was used to gauge the possibility of this hypothesis was the PSAT and there was significant evidence of the detrimental effects that a high temperature can have on the cognitive abilities of the children that are studying in schools. The research however also pertains to scenarios outside the classroom as we as individuals are on a constant road to learning new things every day.
The assumption was tested by making kids in school take the test twice with different temperatures in different years. The years that the tests were give were 2001 and 2014 respectively, taking into consideration the rising global temperatures as a result of our planet warming up. While all other variables were also taken into consideration, the effects of rising temperatures were evaluated and there was considerable evidence of the students performing worse in the later year than previously. The effect was obviously even greater and more adverse in students that study in schools that lack air conditioning.
The average temperatures on weekends and holidays were also taken into consideration but there was no significant changes; making it clear that the temperature affected the children’s ability to learn while there were in school studying. Therefore, it can be concluded that students learn better in school when the temperatures are lower.
What we learn from them
As mentioned before, the results of this research also extend to grownups and people outside the classroom which is what makes it extremely crucial for even workplaces to keep their temperatures in check. The temperatures should be maintained at comfortable levels in order to make sure that employees are performing and progressing at the best of their abilities and are processing information at full capacity. This necessity is also true for temperature at home; they should also be kept in check because students and employees alike also sometimes work from home and their learning and working ability can be affected by the temperatures at home as well.
How we can make it better
What you can do to ensure the temperature around the workplace, the school and the house is comfortable for all its inhabitants, is to first be able to measure it. Use thermometers and other equipment that is available in the market quite easily to measure the temperature around the place you are looking to work in. Once the temperature is measured, look into the different options you have to make the airspace comfortable. In some situations, just opening up the windows or installing an exhaust vent might be enough to get the air circulation and this improving the temperature while in other cases an air conditioner might be necessary. Look into which option brings you the best results while also keeping your budget in mind and rest assured you will be on the right track to great learning and superb productivity.
It’s the year 2019 and the pollution levels of our planet have reached dangerously high levels. From the water to the land; every natural resource that we have is polluted in one way or the other and there is very little action being taken by world leaders to help the planet and the people living on it. The air is perhaps the only element that is the single greatest source of harmful impacts on our health because we inhale it involuntarily and all the dangerous substances accompany it into our bodies. The atmosphere in urban cities is a deadly mixture of nitrogen dioxide, ozone, diesel exhaust particle and particulate matter along with other things. These affect our respiratory systems in outrageous ways without us even realizing the extent of the damage we are inflicting on our bodies.
Once we are aware of how unhealthy the air around us is and that there is not much we can do about it on a larger scale, we can always take small steps in order to ensure our own safety against the hazardous effects of inhaling polluted air. Antioxidants present in our food actually have the ability to protect our body against the harm inflicted by the chemicals in the air we breathe in; the most potent of them being Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is very crucial for our body as it scavenges free radicals and also promotes the production of vitamin E in our body. Vitamin C is very vital to be present in our lungs in order to provide protection against the harmful substances that we inhale on a daily basis. Vitamin C can be found in a variety of foods including green vegetables like coriander, cabbage, turnip greens etc. It is also found in rich quantities in citrus fruits and even guava. Also note that recommended requirement for Vitamin C is 40mg per day for adults. Excessive intake can have harmful effects and like stomach pain and diarrhoea.
Another Vitamin that is crucial for our body is Vitamin E which can be sourced from cooking oils that are plant based such as sunflower oil. Almonds and sunflower seeds are also two of the prime sources of Vitamin E that can be used to meet out daily recommended intake of the antioxidant. Furthermore, certain spices and herbs also contain a good amount of Vitamin C including chilli powder, cloves, basil and oregano. These are usually however only consumed in small quantities so it is always recommended to make them a constant part of your daily diet. You can do this by cooking meals in which these herbs and spices are used to ensure their proper intake.
Omega-3 Fats are another antioxidant that protects the body and the lungs against the harmful effects of air pollution. They also promote a healthy heart and you can source them from nuts like walnut, chia seeds and even flax seeds. Mustard seeds, methi seeds and even green leafy vegetables are a decent source of Omega 3. Make them a certain part of your diet and be sure to have a guard against the harmful effects of the outside world.
What is Radon and where is it Found?
Radon is a radioactive, invisible, unscented and flavorless noble chemical gas with an Rn symbol and atomic number 86 that is formed in the Earth’s crust. It is released in the atmosphere and forms part of the air that we breathe. Because of its imperceptible characteristics, Radon in homes is a grim source of indoor air pollution, which can be a silent killer in our midst. Thus, maintaining low radon concentrations in our homes and workplaces is vital to attaining health.
Sources of Radon
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is produced from the natural breakdown or radioactive decay of uranium and thorium in the earth’s crust. When radon gas deteriorates, it releases radioactive energy as alpha particle, which is a health hazard. Since it comes from the earth’s crust, the level of radon-gas varies from place to place depending on the uranium content of the location. While it is often found in the soil, there is also radon in water because it can also permeate in well waters hot springs and cold springs, making water unsafe to drink. Thus, the main source of radon indoors is through the penetration and insinuation of radon gas from soil into structures and edifices as well as water supplies.
Radon in houses, workplaces and business
The radioactive radon gas is normally found in homes across the world including India. Radon in Indian homes is especially undetected because few people are aware of radon or its dangers. It usually rises through the soil to the air above and seeps into home through cracks and holes in the floor, walls and the structural foundation. Gases permeate houses via a suction-like way. Since the pressure inside homes is lower, air from high pressure areas like those in the soil move to the lower pressure areas like a suction thus allow radon and other gas to enter the living space through cracks and gaps. When these gases are confined inside houses, it accumulates in dangerous concentration levels.
Similarly, radon gases also accumulate in buildings for workplaces, classrooms and other business especially in the low areas like the basements and scuttle areas. Because of differences in atmospheric pressure and densities, radon gasses pass in cracks the building’s foundation or through hot water tank, sink or shower in the toilets. Radon can also build up in the top floors in the building because of lack of proper ventilation, innate updraft of gasses or because of the materials used for the building.
Safe Radon levels at home
Zero levels of radon in home is most ideal. However, since this is a naturally occurring gas, this is most likely impossible to achieve. A 0 – 48 Bq/m³ levels of radon is safe and normal. If it reaches 100 Bq/ m3, a ventilation should be advisable. However, if this level remains the same for the next 3 months, it would be advisable to contact a radon mitigating professional because long exposure to these concentration levels can post serious health hazards in the long run for people living in the building or house.
Impact of Radon
Radon gas is the primary cause of lung cancer for people who don’t smoke cigarettes. Although practically all of us is exposed to small dosages of radon, prolong exposure can lead to cancer. Symptoms to long term radon exposure starts with obstinate coughing, croakiness, breathlessness and shortness of breath, blood coughing, chest aches, loss appetite and lung infection.
As a radioactive material, exposure to high concentrations of radon will lead of cancer as the cell’s DNA blue print is damaged. Instead of replicating normal cells, the radiation can lead to producing cancer cells. As a gaseous radioactive material, radon radiation is a major health concern because it is inhaled through the lungs or ingested when drinking contaminated water for radon in water which can directly damage internal tissues.
How to measure Radon?
In lieu of the adverse health impacts of Radon, it is important to conduct regular monitoring of indoor pollution in homes and in buildings or workplaces. While we may know the safety and harmful levels, it is practically impossible to detect radon levels because it’s odorless and invisible.
Fortunately for us, there is already a smart radon gas detector available in the market that is easy to install and use. These devices are simply mounted in a wall or ceiling. It is then integrated with an app in your mobile device which will in turn signal you of the radon levels where you place the sensor is safe or hazardous. These radon detectors are so accurate that any changes in the radon content in your indoor ambiance is immediately reflected. More importantly, it sends you a warning signal if the radon levels have reached the danger threshold in your home or office.
Another alternative is using charcoal test kits. This test basically involves letting charcoal absorb radon in the atmosphere then bringing the charcoal in the lab for analysis which is rather inconvenient. However, a radon gas detector for monitoring radon in home is a lot accurate, easier to use and understand as it will show you if you have normal and acceptable levels and signal you of any warning.
How to reduce Radon in home?
Ventilation. Since radon is a gas, the best way to remove radon in home and building is install proper ventilation system. This may be in the form of windows or openings, putting an exhaust system, using an electric fan. What is important is that you are able to dissipate the indoor air and allow air from the outside to flow to the inside premises. This is the natural way to reduce radon indoors.
Fix the structure. Once you have discovered that radon concentration levels are high within the indoor premises, you should immediately contact a radon mitigation contractor to fix the place by sealing cracks in floors and walls, mending gaps in service pipes, fixing cavities in the walls and fixing the water supply. These holes are essentially the access points for radon gases to enter the building or your home.
Increase indoor pressure. Increasing air pressure indoors will push away radon gases entering the space. This can be done by installing exhaust fans as well as using combusting equipment such as fireplaces. It is also important to open your windows in order to dissipate or expend smoke emanating from this equipment. Meanwhile, you should also seal HVAC system that has cold-air return registers to prevent air leakage into air ducts.