What’s In Your Air? (Indoor Air)

You sleep 6 to 8 hours a day, you spend 8 or more hours at work, and you’re spending time at home cooking, eating, and watching TV.   That’s 20 out of 24 hours indoors, which means you are breathing indoor air at least 80 percent of the time.

This might surprise you, but even in an urban environment, indoor air is 4 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air.  Indoors you are breathing in chemicals from glue-pressed furnishings and from toxic cleaning agents and detergents that you use.  You’re breathing in chemicals from the off-gassing of plastics and from combustion sources of heating.  And you are breathing in an (un)healthy dose of the microbial load that ends up on all surfaces, especially on rugs and carpets.

Poor indoor air quality has been linked to various health conditions.  The American Lung Association reports that poor air quality is associated with increased susceptibility to infections, asthma, allergies, eye and skin irritations, fatigue, shortness of breath, cardiovascular problems, and even cancer and premature death.  According to the EPA, the health consequences from indoor air pollution can be experienced any time after exposure ─ even years later.

So how can we improve the quality of the air we breathe when indoors?  Start by taking off your street shoes when you enter your home.  Seriously.

In the US, it is common to keep our street shoes on when entering the home.  Not so in Eastern Europe (where I’m from) or in Asia, where a small rack of indoor slippers is often provided for guests.  This is not a cultural thing; rather, it’s a health thing.  That’s right, there are sound medical reasons for taking your shoes off at the front door.

Yes, shoes seem benign enough at first.  But for that extra minute you’re saving by not taking your street shoes off before entering your home, you are quite literally opening the door to some truly deadly pathogens and chemicals.

It should come as no surprise that the bottom of any shoe you wear outside is dirty.  How dirty?  Studies have shown that about 35-40% of shoes have traces of Clostridium Difficile, a particularly nasty form of pathogen that is resistant to most kinds of antibiotics.  This bacterium can even kill you if you are immuno- compromised.  The soles of your street shoes may also be hosting a pathogenic strain of Escherichia Coli ─ Strain O157:H7.  This pathogen can lead to serious gastro-intestinal infections and even kidney damage if left untreated.  Yet another bacterium that can be found on your street shoes is Klebsiella Pneumoniae, which, as the name implies, can lead to pneumonia and cause lung damage and even death.  The fact of the matter is that walking outdoors exposes your shoes to feces, spit, nasal discharge, hair, food remains, vomit, among other nasty particles, all of which are excellent breeding grounds for germs.

Convinced yet?  No?  Well, a study by the University of Arizona found that the contaminants we bring home on our shoes include substances such as arsenic, lead, and DDT!  We are talking heavy metals and poisonous insecticides here, folks!

So please, dedicate certain shoes for use indoors; it’s easier than you think.  I’ve done it all my life.

And while we are on the subject of indoor air, be aware that it is very important to ventilate your indoor environment.  You can do this by opening several windows, preferably on opposite walls, for a few minutes every day.  However bad you think your local outdoor air might be, your stale indoor air is far worse.  Air out those rooms!

If you’re using a humidifier, be careful not to over-humidify your indoor air, because high humidity contributes to a higher air-pollution index and promotes mold growth.  Some molds are highly toxic and can cause a myriad of health problems in sensitive individuals.

You cannot be healthy without breathing clean air.  So please make your home’s air cleaner starting today! 🙂

So very truly yours,

Dr. Inna


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