OF INDOOR AIR QUALITY ISSUES
What We Don’t Know
but Should Know
about the Air
We Breathe –
D. What Are We Breathing?
magnified view of aerosol particles collected in the industrial city of
Port Talbot, England. Many of the particles measure roughly 2.5 microns
across, small enough to easily enter and damage human lungs." (Courtesy
of NASA/MRC Institute for Environment and Health)
floating in or wafted about in the air small enough to enter our
breathing apparatus comes under this broad category. Generally
speaking, most of the particles are too small to be seen by the unaided
eye. Some, however, can be detected if they are in sufficient quantity
and/or under direct illumination to make them visible.
include, but are not necessarily limited to,
It's everywhere we go in our vehicles,
buildings and houses. Picture the grit that you find in
your vacuum cleaner bag on the
linings of your lungs.
It's enough to make you choke. Literally.)
and combustion products;
come from tobacco products, forest fires, commercial and
industrial furnaces and smokestacks, incinerators of all
kinds (including crematories), volcanic eruptions, fireplaces,
etc., every where there is
flame, extreme heat, or burning in some fashion or another.)
comprised of dead skin
cells from animals and people. The average adult sheds about 80,000
skin cells an hour! However, it is pet dander
which is largely to blame for most people's allergies to dogs and cats.)
and other minerals such as gypsum (drywall), confectioners' sugar,
flour, powdered talc, other
minerals, and coal;
mites and other microscopic parasites and their feces,
etc., (We are
definitely not alone! These are the critters who feed on
all those skin cells we are forever flaking off. And they are not
really particular when it comes to their toilet habits.)
and feather pieces; (Whether
or not you like birds, the closer you are in proximity to them, the
greater the likelihood that parts of what helps them fly will be flying
into your airways.)
can be a
number of different types from a diversity of origins, as in mineral
fibers -- such as asbestos and fiberglass); natural textile fibers --
cotton, linen, silk, wool, etc.; synthetic textile fibers -- carpet and
all manner of other indoor sources; and other organic fibers, such as
paper and cardboard.)
fingernail filings; (While
you might expect these in abundance in nail salons -- and you would be
right, they are everywhere manicures and pedicures are performed.
Even in your own home.)
food crumbs; (Alright, they
are for eating, but over a life time more get into your body through
your breathing passages than you would ever care to imagine. Did you
remember to include them on your calorie counter?)
particles (other than
heard about living in glass houses. Did we ever expect that
parts of glass houses would be living in us?)
the stuff that helps hold things together. Have you ever
how well it sticks to the linings of our air passages?)
graphite, carbon, and other
finely ground powders, etc.; (While
it does not write on the walls of our airways, it
certainly can line and coat the walls of our
hair, animal and human
– includes fur; (Ever
wonder what happens to all that hair we lose? Maybe we want
to check in our lungs and airways.)
insect fragments -- actual pieces of body parts, feces,
are interesting to observe and identify under magnification. It's
disgusting to realize we take that sort of material into our lungs.)
metal shavings and dust; (These come from
manufacturing and milling activities, grinding, drilling, shaping,
sanding, or even from any friction causing motion
involving metallic components -- like fans, motors, or other rotating
devices. They are sometimes called "fines" and "ultrafines".
Some, as in lead, are dangerous on their own. But at all times all metal fines are to be considered extremely hazardous to
the health of anyone who has to breathe where they are in the air.)
mold and other spores,
enzymes, and colony particles; These
are nasty not just for their accumulation and air clogging
characteristics. Wait till you find out what they can do in the warm,
dark, moist environement of your airways!)
oil soot -- from kerosene lanterns, and
scented oil lamps and burners, and many types of candles; (We've seen what this is like on
the insides of hurricane lamps. Imagine that on the inside of
your lungs or bronchia.)
paint chips and dust; (As
the elements age even interior paints, they all deteriorate and begin
letting loose in fine particulate form. You've seen aging paint rub off
on your hands or clothes. You don't see when those microscopic elements
turn loose of their application surfaces and enter the air stream where
they can eventually coat your breathing apparatus.)
plant parts; (These can be any
portion of one or more parts of any type of vegetable matter. They can
also include grain dust and flour from grain storage and milling.)
pollen (all sources); (Each
looks different from others’, but a common shared feature is
their cocklebur-like appearance, a characteristic not lost on the
sensitive linings of the brachia and lungs.)
polymer foam particles; (From
the plethora of foam products and by-products using various forms of
polystyrene ["Styrofoam"TM] for packaging, insulation, and many other
end uses to the cross-section of urethanes, polyisocyanurates, and
others used for building insulation of all types, we wind up with a
heavier than we can imagine concentration of non-biodegradable
particles in our air supply, some of which are just ugly to deal with
and some are actually toxic.)
resin powders and dusts;
salt and sugar crystals;
sand and soil; and
wood shavings, wood dust (These
particles are crated any time there is sawing, cutting, milling,
drilling, carving, sanding or any workd done on or with wood. Fine wood
dust is very light and can hang in the air for long periods of time.
Not only can the smallest wood particles be inhaled deep into the lungs
where they are unhealthy in their own right, causing anything from mild
to chronic and even fatal maladies, but they also can carry mold, other
fungus, and bacteria into one's system.)
list is by no means exhaustive, but it begins to alert us to the
increased respiratory burden they create just by their very
|Nearly 100 million in United States are breathing unhealthy levels of particles, says EPA
July 1, 2004
By Chris Baltimore, Reuters
WASHINGTON — Almost 100 million people in 21 U.S. states breathe
unhealthy levels of tiny particles spewed by coal-burning power plants,
cars, and factories, the Environmental Protection Agency said this week.
Hundreds of scientific studies have found links between particulate air
pollution -- at levels people are breathing today -- and respiratory
problems, increased use of asthma medications, missed school days from
respiratory illness, emergency room visits, strokes, heart problems and
EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt notified governors from mostly Eastern
states plus California that 243 counties do not comply with an agency
proposal to limit emissions of the extremely tiny particles. The
particles, 28 times smaller than the width of a human hair, are linked
to premature death from heart and lung disease, as well as chronic
bronchitis and asthma.
Action on particulates, which Leavitt puts at the top of his air
quality agenda, is the next regulatory step after the EPA designated
them as a pollutant in 1997.
"There is nothing we can accomplish that will increase the health of
our air more than decreasing concentrations of (particulate matter),"
Leavitt told reporters.
The EPA action sets in motion a process where states must submit plans
to reduce particulate emissions by early 2008, with compliance required
in the 2010-2015 time frame. Partial attainment of the standards in
2010 could prevent 15,000 premature deaths, according to agency
|Tiny particles come from a wide array of sources, ranging from cars and
trucks to wood-burning stoves, forest fires, power plants, and
factories. In Eastern states, the majority of the pollution comes from
coal-burning power plants. In California, which has no coal facilities,
most is from cars and trucks.
Environmentalists said EPA's
rules won't lead to fast enough reductions in particulate emissions
from the nation's 1,100 coal-burning power plants, the largest single
"EPA needs to take swift action to cut the dangerous
pollution from power plant smokestacks or millions of Americans will be
left gasping for clean air," said Vickie Patton, an attorney at
EPA's plan to cut utility emissions
by 70 percent by 2015 will mark one of the most productive periods in
U.S. air-quality improvements, Leavitt said.
"This is not
about the air getting dirtier," Leavitt said. "It's about the air
getting cleaner and our standards getting tougher."
no outright penalty for noncompliance, but states that fail to submit
plans could lose federal transportation funds, Leavitt said.
governors had asked EPA to designate 141 counties as noncompliant, far
short of the 243 EPA named in a preliminary list it will finalize in
The EPA found noncompliant counties in the
following states plus the District of Columbia: Alabama, California,
Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland,
Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina,
Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
|Particulates also include
the components known by the acronym "F.O.G." for "Fats, Oils,
Spend much time around a
kitchen or a machine shop, and you are dealing with a potentially
serious buildup of some mighty nasty materials. Picture coating the
linings of your lungs with dirt and butter or axle grease, and you will
understand why breathing dust and FOG makes us cough or sneeze (natural
responses designed to expel particulates).
as sensitive and vulnerable as our airways and lungs are, they were
designed to be able to fend off many of these particulate contaminates
and remarkably recover from unwelcome encounters with them —
all other things being equal.
for reasons set forth more fully elsewhere, our
exposures to a growing number of these particulates are becoming more
frequent and cumulative, and with less than ideal recovery conditions,
less than optimum nutrition, and a general lack of good, breathable
air, we are increasingly falling victim to their ravages.
of the ways we are being affected is by the body’s
“blacklisting” certain of the breathables and
causing our bodies to respond in a negative manner whenever there is an
exposure to them. These are called allergens, which we will review next.
we should remember, as well, that there is a potentially greater --
though not so evident -- risk posed by particulates which goes beyond
the offensive materials themselves. Along with being irritating and
harmful on their own, breathable particles are the
vehicles on which germs, viruses, and other pathogens ride into our
airways and make us sick. The greater the volume of
particulates in the air we are breathing, the greater the chances that
we will be infected and made ill.
|GLOSSARY -- Partial glossary of terms from the U.S. CDC related to particulates
Abrasive blasting - Aprocess
for cleaning metal and other surfaces using material in a high-pressure
stream. The material is blasted against a surface to remove paint or
contaminants. If silica sand is used as the material, this process is
Accelerated silicosis - A silicosis that develops 5 to 10 years after exposure to high concentrations of crystalline silica.
Acute silicosis - A
silicosis with symptoms that can develop a few weeks to 5 years after
exposure to very high concentrations of crystalline silica. The term
"acute" usually refers to a short but severe illness. In acute
silicosis, the time between exposure and severe illness is shorter than
in accelerated or chronic silicosis.
Biopsy - The removal and examination of tissue, cells, or fluids from a living body for diagnosis of disease.
Chronic silicosis - A silicosis that develops after 10 or more years of exposure to low concentrations of crystalline silica.
Crystalline silica - The
crystalline form of silica; a mineral made of silicon and oxygen (SiO2)
that is naturally abundant in the earth's crust. In its crystalline
form (primarily as quartz, tridymite, or cristobalite), silica may be
harmful if inhaled.
Cyanosis - A
bluish or purplish discoloration due to inadequate oxygen concentration
in the blood. This discoloration is most often seen in the skin, but it
occurs in other body systems.
Fibrosis - Scarring
of the lungs due to breathing harmful dusts or chemicals such as
crystalline silica. As the disease develops, the lungs begin to stiffen
and become less flexible, making breathing more difficult.
Particulate - A particle or small object made of a solid or liquid material.
Pneumonia - A lung disease caused by infection or irritants and characterized by inflammation.
Pneumoconiosis - A lung disease caused by inhaling hazardous dusts.
Pulmonary edema - An abnormal accumulation of fluid in the lungs.
Respirable particles - Airborne particles within a size range that allows them to be inhaled and to penetrate deeply into the lungs.
Respirator - A device worn over the mouth and nose or entire head to protect the user from inhaling harmful agents.
Sandblasting - A
process for cleaning metal and other surfaces using sand in a
high-pressure air stream. The sand is blasted against a surface to
remove paint or contaminants. This process is also called abrasive
Silica sand - The fine particles from ground rock containing a high content of crystalline silica.
Silicosis - A nodular fibrosis of the lungs and shortness of breath caused by prolonged inhalation of silica-containing dusts.
Silicotic nodule - A mass of tissue that is a reaction of the body to crystalline silica particles.
materials not supplied by manufacturers or others are
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out the videos
An introduction to indoor air
What Don't We Know?
The problem is worse than we realize.
What Do We Need to Know?
Sorting out the info and charting
a course to follow.
What are We Breathing?
guests we receive every time we breathe.
body’s “hit list” of alien invaders.
bacteria, viruses, and germs which reproduce in the human body
have odors for a reason,
Can the problem be corrected rather than merely masked or covered up?
possibly drowning in a toxic soup?
Is what we see dangerous?
And is what we don't see
perhaps more dangerous than what we do see?
Which Technology Works the Best?
Are the technologies pretty
much equal, or is their a large disparity among them?
1. Passive Technology.
The pollution finds the solution.
(Or so we hope!)
The solution finds the pollution -
even where it is hiding!
a. Stage One -- Dual
Ionization (Particulate Removal)
Stage Two -- Quad
Stage Three -- Advanced
Combo Effect -- The
Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts.
3. Major Differences.
Things that are not the same
are not equal.
a. Literally out of this
The technology which produces
"the purest air on the planet"
actually comes from
out of this world.
b. Overall Air Purity.
By what standard do
you certify the actual purity of air?
c. Too Clean to Test for Purity?
"Without dirt in the air,
we cannot tell you
how pure the air is."
Does that strike anybody as odd?
Where's the Dirt?
(Where is Clara Peller
when you need her?)
e. What to do?
can see that it’s clean except the career bureaucrats.
f. Where are the Germs?
Hint: One place they are not
"Blowin' in the Wind".
g. Filtration rates vs. Kill
In the war against pathogens,
would you like your germs
captured and contained
or killed "graveyard dead"?
same thing that RCITM
particulates and germs it does also to smoke, dust, and sources of
F. What IAQ
issues must be considered and addressed?
Head to head comparison of the technologies - very revealing.
Are there medical considerations?
Obligatory disclaimers and the practical realities of what happens when
a sick body can actually catch its breath.
Are there legal and other considerations?
What happens if we just
ignore the problem or fail to investigate it fully?
When is Timing an Issue?
the mold or other air quality problem doesn't seem to be spreading or
getting any worse, so we really have to pay it any attention?