Our lungs aren’t just glorified airbags – they’re an essential component to keeping us alive! They bring in oxygen, which red blood cells carry throughout the body to help fuel our daily activities.
However, sometimes we don’t take the best care of our lungs. And even when we do take care of them, sometimes there are other environmental factors that can affect our lung health.
October is Healthy Lung Month, and we want to make sure everyone is keeping their lungs in good shape. So we’ve put together some information about things around the home that can damage your lungs – not just now, but all year round.
Hidden Lung Hazards in Your Home
Our homes are the places where we play, eat, sleep – essentially, where we live! However, a lot of homes across the country contain deadly things that could potentially kill us, from mold to chemicals to dangerous carcinogenic fibers like asbestos. If we aren’t vigilant and have such dangerous substances cleaned up properly, we could literally be killed by our own home.
Pollutants and irritants around your home might include:
Asbestos: As a natural fibrous mineral, asbestos was at one time used universally in construction, due to its flame-resistant nature. However, we now know that asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a rare and deadly cancer. Generally, asbestos is safe if it’s not disturbed – however, if it’s broken or becomes airborne, it can easily be breathed in.
Mold: Lives in warm and humid places like showers, kitchens, and basements.
Pollen: Opening a door or window allows millions of pollen particles inside, which can cause breathing problems like asthma or stuffed sinuses.
Air fresheners: Some candles, plug-ins, and sprays contain dangerous chemicals known as phthalates that if breathed in can cause health problems from hormonal abnormalities to birth defects and reproductive problems.
Household cleaning products: Did you know that listing ingredients on cleaning products is not required everywhere? Some of these products can contain hazardous toxins, even if they are labeled “green” or “natural,” and they can cause chemical burns or induce asthma.
Carbon monoxide (CO): An odorless gas, CO is a byproduct of certain types of fuel-burning devices, such as furnaces, gas ovens, kerosene heaters, water heaters, and more. Breathing CO can lead to dizziness, vomiting, and nausea, and if too much is breathed in it can cause you to go unconscious or even die.
Radon: A naturally occurring, radioactive element, radon is most dangerous when breathed into your lungs. As a dense gas, it tends to collect in basements and crawl spaces, and due to its radioactivity, it is number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
Finding Hidden Hazards
How do you know if you have any of these hazards in your home? Here are some things you can do to help keep your lungs safe:
- Check cleaning supplies and air fresheners for toxic ingredients
- Install and/or check carbon monoxide and radon detectors
- Have a professional inspect for mold, asbestos, and other visible hazards
If you find any hazards, address them responsibly:
- Dispose of cleaning supplies or air fresheners according to the instructions on the packaging (or see here for more information)
- Carbon monoxide often means that a fuel-burning appliance is not properly ventilated – contact a contractor to discuss options
- For radon, follow the EPA’s guidelines for fixing your home
- Asbestos and mold removal may require professional help to ensure safe and complete removal
We hope these tips will help you stay lung-healthy at home. For more information, see our infographic on the side and share it with your friends and loved-ones!