The Truth about Indoor Air Quality

Not lots of people are ready to accept the truth or understand it. We dismiss important information when it is not visible “out of sight, out of mind” and we get influenced when something is shiny and pretty.

Productivity

Poor air quality won’t kill you (at least not immediately and depending on the pollutants), but do you want to be an average employee, athlete, parent, student, or the best? Do you want your employees to work in mediocre conditions and perform poorly, or do you want them to be vibrant and productive?

Excellent indoor air quality will boost the performance of all. The main environmental parameters you must consider addressing are four, Particulate Matter (PM2.5), Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Temperatures, and Humidity. I haven’t included VOCs because poor ventilation and high CO2 levels will result in high VOC levels, so I made things easier.

Health

Air pollution is not easily understood by most people mainly because it is invisible. No one is going to drink a glass of water if the water is dirty but how many times have you had to breathe second-hand smoke, vehicle fumes, or wood-burning smoke! I will say with certainty there were many times and you don’t even worry or remember about it.

The respiratory system isn’t designed to deal with fine particulates and other pollutants. The gastrointestinal system, where solids and liquids get digested, can deal with contaminants because it can get rid of them through the two avenues designed by nature. Sure drinking or eating extremely spoiled food and drinks can lead to deadly diarrhea. However, the respiratory system cannot do something similar and pollutants get accumulated inside the lungs. The smallest pollutants like PM1.0 and gases are distributed through blood even to the brain.

Sure, you can cough, but once particles are inside us they are stuck around the walls because of the fluids. Here is an example of an adult male who was a non-smoker and his lungs are black because of the indoor and ambient pollution. He donated his body to science, and now people can see “him” at the museum of Granada in Spain.

I don’t want to repeat myself and tell you that you spend 86.9%NHAPS of your time indoors, but it’s a fact!

Air is the most important element because without it you only have 3 minutes to live. You literally remove years from your life when pollution is inhaled.

Finally, I believe it is time for researcher to look into the size distribution of the particles rather than generic PM2.5 values that can represent many potential size distributions.

Fireworks are Bad New for your Body

Fireworks or pyrotechnics are used heavily to this day in many places around the world to celebrate various events. People have them associated with fan and parties, so they are not very open on hearing that they are bad for our health. Fireworks elevate air levels of particulate matter with several metallic components and gases during their explosion. Studies show that hospital admissions with respiratory issues increase during similar events all around the world.

The color of the fireworks is subject to the metals they mix, and while these metals heat from the explosive materials, they produce various color hues.

Read More »

Cars vs People in the USA – Air Quality

Last week was CleanAirDay. I love days like this when a collective effort is made to raise awareness of such an important problem in modern society. Most importantly the new generation of citizens is taught about the importance of excellent air quality and the dangers of air pollution.

For the past few weeks, I have been living in the US near Boston and I am still trying to wrap my head around those super monstrous vehicles people use to commute from one place to another and how towns are designed to force people to drive everywhere.

I am the only person that walks to work or to the grocery store. Literally, I don’t see other people walking here. It’s tremendous!

Read More »

What is a Healthy Building? Why Indoor Air Quality is the Key?

Don’t be fooled, even the most outdoorsy person spends a great deal indoors. Apart from the fact that we spend a lot of time indoors because we are safe from the elements and other external threats, indoor environments are designed to meet other occupants’ needs like resting, being productive, or even having fun. A rule of thumb is to take your age and multiply it by 0.9. Vualá, that’s the time you have spent indoors so far.

Nowadays buildings are fully equipped with all sorts of things in an effort to make occupants’ life better, healthier, or even more creative. If we take as an example a modern house, we will find modern gym equipment, connected lights to create an atmosphere, smart vacuum cleaners, etc. If we take as an example an office building, we will find automation in the entrance with automated doors, fire alarms, elevators, etc.

Read More »

3+1 Habits for Healthy Lungs

Our lungs are the first main organs to interact with the breathing air but remember almost all our organs will eventually receive something from the air we inhaled — ideally Oxygen. OK, let’s take a step back to remind ourselves of the composition of the air in our atmosphere. The composition of the atmospheric air is 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, 0.9% Argon, 0.04% Carbon Dioxide, and other trace gases and aerosols that in most cases are the pollutants that will deplete our health. You see, our modern lifestyle and the constant burning of fossil fuels (of any form including wood burning) has changed the balance and composition of the air in neighborhoods and cities. As a result, we end up with abnormal concentrations of pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc in the breathing air.

From an evolutionary perspective, our bodies are not designed to deal with the fine particles or the notorious toxic gases that are released into the atmosphere from our wrong investment in fossil fuels. With the exception of our gastrointestinal system which can discard unnecessary solids or liquid, our lungs cannot get rid of the air pollutants so they stuck and accumulate inside us. Some may be filtered by the liver.

Our noses or even our upper respiratory tracks can trap some coarse particulate matter, but there isn’t any mechanism to trap fine-PM or nanoparticles or gases, as a result, they end up reaching our lungs and the alveolar sacs where the exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs. The pollutants can pass that barrier or even they are stuck there resulting in inflammation responses and trust me we don’t want inflammation anywhere. I don’t want to dive too deep regarding what’s going on inside us when air pollution reaches our organs because it gets ugly.

What can we do to keep our lungs and the rest of our organs healthy and happy?

Avoid Ambient Air Pollution & Fix Your Indoor Air Quality

The first and obvious thing to do is to avoid air pollution. Some apps can help you find the best route in case you commute. However, sometimes it is hard to bypass polluted and busy roads. For this reason, we need to prevent pollution from being released into the atmosphere in the first place. How? By educating the rest. I know it is a hard task but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Just convince one close person and teach him or her how to do the same with another person close to them. If we have learned something from COVID-19 is how fast something can spread.

Indoor air quality is something we have to pay closer attention to. Sometimes we dismiss the fact that we spend a lot of time indoors and outdoor pollution slips inside or we create indoor air pollution. We had better demand better indoor quality in our workplaces as we spend a lot of time there too. Quantify the pollution with an indoor air quality monitor as it is the easiest way to take control of your air. Remember, no one is looking after your indoor air quality, except you!

Work Out

I love exercising, well no! Hear me out, I love the feeling of achievement each time I complete a physical workout because I know it benefits me on so many levels, including my lungs.

Full disclosure, I only exercise and recommend it to people when air quality is excellent and this is a condition that I have to follow 100% because when we exercise the demand for air increases, and our respiratory rates jump from about 15 times a minute to about 50 times a minute.

When we exercise we increase the capacity of air our lungs can hold and we increase the blood flow to our lungs, allowing the lungs to deliver more oxygen into the blood. Exercise reduces our blood pressure and improves our overall cardiac function so that our heart can pump more blood with each heartbeat. That means that our heart beats less time per minute, as a result, we extend its life span.

Don’t run next to busy streets! Indoors, make sure the air quality is excellent too.

Eat Healthy Food & Drink Healthy Beverages

We are what we eat, drink and breathe, so invest in healthy and vibrant food like seasonal fruit and veggies. Meat is also important but during a whole week dedicate one or two days to meatless meals. There are plenty of delicious, inexpensive, and climate-friendly recipes. I could recommend some so feel free to ask me. I don’t believe in strict diets but in well-balanced diets.

Unfortunately, the food and beverage industry is adding sugar and salt to make food and drinks more interesting for many decades, as a result, we are unable to distinguish the real flavor of a meal. My approach is to search for the taste of the plain food or drink. I can taste water, can you? Drink a cup of organic coffee or tea without sugar and try to find the notes of the different elements.

Our lungs need food and drinks rich in nutrients and antioxidants like vitamins, minerals, healthy fat, fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates. These nutrients will reverse some of the damages and inflammation air pollution will cause to our lungs during our walk in the city center where traffic is awful. Did you know that the lungs are responsible for the transpiration of the “burned” calories out of our bodies in the form of carbon dioxide?

Meditate

Meditate once a day if you can, but don’t burn stuff! I have seen people burning incense or dry plants (sage) when they meditate in their effort to create a pleasant indoor environment but these practices release a lot of particulate matter and VOCs which end up inside them.

Meditation and some breathing techniques are designed to strengthen the lungs and the muscles around them. People who suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung diseases may benefit from practicing them, according to some scientific studies but make sure to ask your doctor.

Op-ed: Wood-Burning Season is ON and the Zombies return!

Although some people claim that the wood-burning season doesn’t exist anymore because people never stop burning stuff (and this is true in some regions), the vast majority of the population can’t wait for cold weather to arrive in order to light the “cozy” wood stoves and unconsciously chock the village with toxic smoke.

Yes, wood-stoves even the ECO friendly or low-emissions or EPA certified or you name it, are huge polluters! They emit lots of particulate matter (commonly known as PM2.5) and a huge array of toxic chemicals that sometimes linger in the air for many days. Air pollution kills 13 people every minute worldwide and scientists at Harvard University found that dwellers who live in polluted areas are 15% more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who do not!

The atmospheric conditions and the geographical location of a village or city work in a complex way sometimes in favor of the dwellers but most of the time against the dwellers. When a city is surrounded by hills and mountains air pollution tends to stay there for a long time, like in Murcia, Spain. In that case, people’s lungs work as purifiers and trap all the pollutants, as a result, we have more hospital admissions and more chances to suffer severe health effects due to the air pollution which is deposed inside our bodies. The cost to maintain public health also increases.

By comparison, wood smoke from stoves and boilers carries the highest concentration across all pollutants. One eco-certified wood stove is rated at 3.1grams/h of particulate matter which is equal to six heavy-duty lorries which are rated at 0.5grams/h of particulate matter each.

Read More »