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How Poor Ventilation is Affecting Your Health

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Are you sneezing and coughing more often than usual? This could be caused by poor ventilation in your home. Poor ventilation can trap harmful pollutants inside your house, which can lead to adverse effects on your health.

The concentration of pollutants indoors may be two to five times higher than outdoors. Some energy-efficient buildings lack sufficient mechanical ventilation that ensures adequate air exchange. What’s more, those who are often most susceptible to the effects of pollution (e.g. young people, old adults and those with cardiovascular or respiratory diseases) tend to stay more indoors.

A 2015 UK study found that indoor air pollution could be potentially responsible for 200,000 deaths in the UK. It showed that exposure to indoor pollutants could lead to a shorter life.

Given this, you should be more conscious of the quality of air in your home. Your current home ventilation system might not be able to filter out harmful pollutants effectively. Here are contaminants commonly found in houses:

Mildew and mould

Carbon monoxide

Carbon dioxide

Dust

Chemical fumes

Bacteria and viruses

Pet dander

Pollen

Pesticides and herbicides

If not addressed, these pollutants can be harmful. The best course of action is to become aware and clean up your indoor air before these illnesses develop.

Respiratory issues

doctor checking an X-ray

These may include chronic respiratory failures, asthma, chronic sinusitis, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia.

Check your ventilation system if it properly filters out gases like carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas produced when burning fuels such as gas and kerosene. CO may block the movement of oxygen in the body. It can make heart conditions worse and can cause cardiorespiratory failures.

Nitrogen dioxide is a product of natural gas and kerosene combustion. Long term exposure may affect the lungs, which can lead to chronic bronchitis. It may also worsen asthma and other respiratory infections.

Cancers

Secondhand smoke is the smoke that has been exhaled or breathed out by the smoker. Tobacco smoke contains 70 kinds of chemicals that can cause cancer. The National Health Service said up to five million children in the UK are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. Inhaling secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer by up to 24 per cent.

Meanwhile, deaths from mesothelioma reached 2,523 in 2019. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers organs like the lungs, abdomen and heart. Mesothelioma is caused almost exclusively by inhaling asbestos fibres. Asbestos fibres are commonly used in houses’ roofing and insulation systems.

Mould allergy

Sensitivity to moulds can cause coughing, nasal stuffiness and throat irritation. However, those who have increased exposure to mould may show more severe reactions. They may manifest flu or pneumonia-like symptoms like persistent exhaustion, frequent coughing, headaches, fever and difficulty in breathing. Toxic mould exposure is connected to more serious, long-term effects like confusion, insomnia and memory loss.

If your immune system is weak, exposure to mould may affect your health more severely.

Keeping your house well-ventilated can repel these diseases. Make sure your home is airtight while still allowing air to properly circulate. You can arrange for an air tightness test to check air quality in your home.

The NHS study suggested that the overall burden caused by indoor air pollution can be cut by up to 38 per cent if more UK homes install more effective and optimised ventilation systems. Take note of the potential long term effects of poor ventilation on your health and ensure the air you’re breathing is clean and healthy.

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