Indoor air quality is directly linked to outdoor air quality.
Studies in Australia and overseas have shown that outdoor air pollution infiltrates indoors and can be a major driver of indoor air pollution levels.
Given the infiltration of outdoor air into the indoor environment, reductions in ambient air pollution levels will also lead to reductions in indoor air pollution - National Environment Protection Council. July 2010 Discussion Paper Air Quality Standards
Outdoor woodsmoke finds it's way into our buildings and homes. It seeps in through open windows, flywire screens, and open doors with screens or not. The particles of wood smoke are so fine they find cracks around closed windows and around doors. Smoke comes down chimneys and in through exhaust vents. It gets into ceilings and under ventilated floors. And when it comes in it stays in and is breathed by you and me. As a result of the "sink effect" it then attaches itself to carpets, bedding, and any other soft furnishings causing problems for unsuspecting children or adults that come in contact with these items.
In buildings smoke is drawn straight in through air conditioning ducts along with the percentage make-up of fresh air which is required by law. The filter system in most buildings will not remove any of the fine particles of smoke unless the building is equipped with super Hepa (absolute,or hospital grade 99.9%) type filters and these are usually only found in hospital theatres, or where similar ultra clean air is required. These filters are very costly to instal and maintain.
Building regulations provide for comfort not health. Their aim is to provide a comfortable indoor environment, as defined by temperature and humidity, not a safe environment free of hazardous airborne pollutants.
In Australia it was found that in 1997, 96% of people's time was spent in enclosed environments, and only 4% outdoors.
In Tasmania in 1995, 80% of building occupants studied suffered fatigue, nausea, dizziness and sore throats.
In 1999, 85% of building occupants suffered fatigue, stuffy nose, headache and eye irritation. http://soer.justice.tas.gov.au/2003/atm/1/issue/1/index.php
When ambient woodsmoke levels are really high, indoor air can become particularly hazardous.
Low levels of woodsmoke over a longer period of time can be just as hazardous to health.
Indoor pollutants can come from a number of sources, as well as from outdoors.
The air you breathe inside can be filled with volatile organic compounds - found in building materials, furniture, office equipment, paint and craft materials, to name a few such hazards.
"Potentially, indoor air pollutants can greatly exceed outdoor levels. It is important that people with asthma consider this when they seek to use their homes or other buildings as refuges from the effects of outdoor pollution." http://www.nationalasthma.org.au/health-professionals/information-papers/asthma-air-pollution-asthma-series-paper-4-/indoor-air-pollutants
For all these health reasons our Director of Public and Environmental Health (Dr. Roscoe Taylor) should not be advising people to take refuge in buildings to escape deliberate outdoor levels of woodsmoke . He should be proactive in stopping the outdoor smoke at the source which is inhaled by everybody and from which there is very little escape.
To put the onus back onto susceptible people to sit inside and watch air quality readings on a website all the time during the long outdoor burning season is cruel and wrong. Much of the smoke is not recorded by these air quality meters.
These people should be encouraged by our Director of Public Health to get outside and enjoy clean air, not tell them to lock themselves up inside, or in a friends place, the local library, shopping centre, or sports complex!
This is just supporting the burners, adding stress to those who suffer from the smoke, their families and friends, costing communities and costing an already over-stretched health system.
Our Director of Public Health should read THIS
A study by the University of Washington in Seattle showed that 50 to 70 percent of the outdoor levels of wood smoke were entering homes that were not burning wood.
How does this happen you ask? We have the visible smoke in PM2.5s but that is just a tiny fraction of what is present in wood smoke. The rest is made up of invisible particles in the 0.2 to 0.4 range and toxic gasses. Particles this small move primarily according to the laws of diffusion along the concentration gradient: from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration.
Indoor House Plants for Improving Air Quality
"Outdoor air is often the focus in most discussions of air pollution and poor air quality. One might assume that the indoor air is much cleaner and healthier to breathe, because of the pollution produced from cars, buildings and other industrial sources. Unfortunately, many overlook the hazardous chemicals accumulating within their own residences....." A health article worth reading.
NASA's top ten air cleaning plants
Indoor air quality
Your house is a major source of pollution
“There is a direct increase in incidence of heart disease and respiratory illness with increased exposure to pollutants in the air. There is a rapid decline in lung function and lung capacity among people who have had prolonged exposure to polluted air. It is a cause for serious concern as it could eventually turn fatal,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, professor and head, department of pulmonary medicine, AIIMS.
The following information was received through Right to Information:
"Protection indoors is hard to generalise as it varies with the type of house.- for episodes of just a few hours it could be very helpful. For fine particulates indoor air will eventually equilibrate with outdoor air" -10/12/2013 email advice from Dr Fay Johnston to Dr Roscoe Taylor.
This information will be of interest to the people of Mowell in Victoria who were told to stop in their homes during the Hazelwood coal mine fire that lasted for 40 something days. It is also applicable to Tasmanians who are told to go inside whilst forestry burns.
Asthmatics, it’s time to take care of your home!
Doctors believe that indoor pollutants play a huge role in triggering asthma
If you are an asthmatic who finds it difficult to breathe outside and escape to the confines of your home to breathe easily, it could actually result in more loss than gain if you're not careful.
It is not just the outdoor pollution caused by industries and vehicular emission that triggers allergies like asthma.
City-based doctors say that lesser known and more dangerous pollutant are present indoors that gives rise to asthma and related allergies.
“We see that most number of fresh cases are pediatric i.e. children below five years of age who are not exposed much to outdoor pollution as they either are at home or in schools. They are the ones who are affected the most by indoor air quality. What parents and schools don't understand is that indoor pollution equally contributes. There is an acute need to look at indoor pollution more closely,” said Dr Vijay Warad, allergist and pediatric pulmonologist.
Indoor air pollutants majorly consist of dust, pet animal droppings, wall fungus, smoke and volatile carbon compounds emitted from wall paints. These pollutants when inhaled, cause allergic reactions and raise the chances of getting asthma.
“The smoke that an incense stick releases is as harmful to an asthma patient as the smoke of 100 cigarettes. However, people do not realise the ill effects indoor pollutants have which actually triggers severe asthmatic attacks. Similarly uncleaned walls, certain paints are also bad triggers. It's important for parents to educate themselves about this,” added Nitin Abhyankar, pulmonologist in Sadashiv Peth.
In case if there is anybody at your house who is been detected with asthma, along with providing the patient with appropriate treatment and medication you also need to keep the house clean and free from indoor air pollutants.
Barnali Bhattacharya, another pediatric pulmonologist, added, “There is a steady rise in asthma patients in the past few years, and environmental aspects like air pollution is the cause of 1 out of every 5 new cases that I attend to. Dust and molds are of major concern as they trigger most of the asthma cases. Houses should be made free from the dust and smoke, that will definitely give relief to many patients.”
The simplest measures can go a long way. “Fifty per cent of asthma attacks are triggered by dust mite allergies which are avoidable to a large extent. Just keeping house dust free, ensuring no fungus on damp walls, keeping bed sheets and pillow covers in sunlight once a week to kill dust mites, good ventilation can help in protecting against asthma attacks,” added Warad.
Editor's comment: All the more reason for people to be able to enjoy smoke free air outside!
"Air pollution in general is increasingly recognized as a systemic health threat, impairing the functioning of virtually every organ system." - Read what the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) have to say.