Indoor Air Quality in NYC

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Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts
September 18, 2019
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Indoor Air Quality in NYC

indoor air quality

Everyone wants to live in an environment with clean air. The air we breathe affects not just our physical environment, but our mental capacity as well. People living in major cities, like New York are not only suffering from increases in respiratory illnesses and other chronic conditions due to air pollution but are losing their cognitive functions. High pollution levels are linked to premature birth, low birth weight, mental illnesses in children and dementia in the elderly. Researchers from the American Lung Association found that more than 40 percent of Americans live in areas with unhealthy air. New York ranked tenth worst in the country for smog levels. Ozone pollution, often called smog, is produced when pollutants react to sunlight. Smog is unhealthy and essentially leaves a sunburn on the lungs. Breathing in this type of pollution can leave people suffering from shortness of breath, cause bouts of coughing, and asthma attacks.

People who live in poor neighborhoods suffer disproportionately from health issues related to poor air quality. Asthma emergency department visit rates were more than three times higher among children in high poverty neighborhoods. Increased levels of air pollution in impoverished neighborhoods is contributed by high truck and traffic volume, industrial facilities and older heating systems.

What is Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor air quality refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles released into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes. The most common causes of indoor air quality problems in NYC are not enough ventilation, lack of fresh outdoor air or contaminated air being brought into the building, poor upkeep of ventilation, heating and air-conditioning systems and dampness and moisture damage due to leaks, flooding or high humidity.

Common Indoor Air Pollutants in NYC

Indoor air pollutants can be even more dangerous than outdoor air pollution. However, the first step to keeping your home and family safe is by understanding and controlling common pollutants indoors. Common indoor air pollutants include the following:

  • Carbon monoxide (CO) – an odorless, invisible gas. CO stops your body from using the oxygen it needs to work normally. You may experience tiredness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and a fast heart rate. If the concentration of CO is high enough, it can lead to death.
  • Radon – an odorless, colorless gas. Being exposed to elevated levels of radon increases your risk of getting lung cancer.
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) – a toxic and corrosive gas. This gas irritates the throat, eyes, nose, and respiratory tract. Exposure to very high doses can lead to pulmonary edema or lung injury. Moderate exposure can lead to acute or chronic bronchitis. Can also impair lung function for people who are already at risk.
  • Secondhand smoke – Environmental tobacco smoke that comes from incompletely burned tobacco products. Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation. In the long run it can cause pneumonia, bronchitis, and lung cancer, as well as trigger asthma attacks.
  • Lead particles – a natural, soft metal that is very toxic if consumed. Exposure to lead can damage the brain, nervous systems, kidneys and red blood cells.
  • Asbestos – a group of minerals found naturally all over the world. Exposure to asbestos can lead to various lung disorders, including lung cancer and asbestosis (inflammatory condition of the lungs that causes permanent lung damage).
  • Mold – a type of fungi that grows indoor and outdoors. It can trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Symptoms may include nasal stuffiness, eye or throat irritation, swelling, coughing or wheezing, headaches, or skin irritation, as well as trigger asthma attacks.

Easy Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

The winter months tend to be worse for indoor air quality in NYC because there is no flow of fresh air from the outside, so allergens stay trapped inside. It may not be possible to eliminate all the allergens inside your home, but you can reduce the number and your exposure to them by making some simple changes. Start by keeping your home clean – vacuuming the carpets and area rugs at least once or twice a week with a vacuum; regularly cleaning bedding, drapes, and other items that tend to attract allergens; and clearing clutter that can trap and hold dust. Keep plants outdoors because plants can often collect and foster the growth of mold when you keep them indoors. If you have a forced air heating system, change the filters regularly. If you’re allergic to indoor allergens and can’t control the sources of the problem, invest in an air purifier. You may also want to consider a dehumidifier in damp areas, such as a basement, to help prevent the growth of mold. Even during cold months, try opening windows from time to time to allow fresh air to move into the house. Also, move potential air contaminants out by using fans in the kitchen to remove cooking fumes.

Smoke from fire contains a mix of gases, particles and chemicals. After a fire in your building, it’s important to clean thoroughly and ventilate as much as possible to improve indoor air quality in NYC.

Indoor Air Quality Testing in NYC

When you are getting help from an indoor air quality testing service in NYC, make sure that it is competent to detect the exact causes of the air pollution. Indoor air quality is like drinking water. The air you breathe must be clean for toxins and contaminates the same way the water you drink must be. Keep in mind to hire professionals who are certified and have gone through the adequate regulatory compliance training programs that can solve any issues related to lead, asbestos and any other related hazardous materials.

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