Perspectives: The Air We Breathe

Article From: Products Finishing, from Products Finishing

Posted on: 8/1/2002

The air you breathe when you are outside is getting better; however, the stuff you are breathing at home and in the office is getting worse.

The air you breathe when you are outside is getting better; however, the stuff you are breathing at home and in the office is getting worse. At least according to recent studies by the EPA, which have found that indoor air quality is two to five times more polluted than outside air. Most people spend more time indoors than out. Actually, the EPA says that Americans spend at least 90% of their time indoors.

Unless, of course, they have dogs, as I do. Then you spend the majority of your time wandering outside with dog debating whether or not it has “finished” so you can go back to the bed, chair or couch.

The reason for declining indoor air quality is that we are tightening up our buildings to make them more energy efficient. In doing that, we trap in chemicals such as formaldehyde, which can be found in particle-board, insulating foam, and plastic-laminate counters.

Other sources of chemicals are dishwashers, washing machines and showers, anything that can heat up and spray water. Some wall-to-wall carpet has adhesives and backings that release 4-phenylcyclohexene. This is the chemical that gives it that “new carpet” smell. There are, however, EPA brand-certified carpets.

What is the solution? Is there a magic potion? How can we all be healthy and have a clean environment? Is it even possible?

First you clean up your plants, making them energy efficient and pollution free. You help clean up the outside air and water.

Next, you make your home energy efficient and suddenly you find out you are poisoning yourself. Is it the manufacturers’ fault for not making more “healthy” products? Was EPA too gung-ho in “discovering” and identifying these hazards? Are they really that dangerous? Or is it our fault for buying the products? Were there warning labels? It seems we are constantly threatened by a newly discovered hazard every week. Even scented candles are now considered hazardous because the wicks may have lead in them.

I agree that buildings can have poor air quality because of poor ventilation, new carpets, formaldehyde, etc., but how much "hazardous warning" is too much? Will people start to ignore them?

I’m waiting for them to tell me it is hazardous to walk my dogs in the woods at 3:00 a.m. wearing my husband’s ancient gym shoes and ratty old T-shirt.Then I can make him walk them. Good thing I use a flashlight instead of a candle.


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