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Title: Several Indoor Air Pollutants and Their Impact on Children

Category: Child Care


With the building of "tight houses" and the fact that children spend up to 90% of their time indoors, there is great concern today for indoor pollutants' effect on our children's health. The greatest indoor pollutant of concern is cigarette smoke. All children indoors are at risk for passive exposure to cigarette smoke. Numerous studies indicate that the rate of asthma attacks, ear infections, and upper respiratory infections in general increases up to three-fold with even one person smoking indoors on a regular basis. A second indoor air pollutant of vital importance to allergy patients and particularly asthmatics is the house dust mite. Because of the nature of "tight houses", mites and mite feces indoors apparently have increased over the past 20 years. This is the number one theory behind the rising death rate from asthma and the rising incidence of asthma world wide. The best way to avoid mites is to keep carpet out of your house and to air out your house regularly particularly after a good hard rain when pollen is on the ground and will not blow into your house. Also having clean air filters and air cleaning machines with "HEPA" filters can be helpful. Finally, using two newly approved mite control chemicals can be helpful if you do have lots of carpet in your house with high concentrations of mite. These are Allergy Control Solution spray and Akarosan. These can be ordered through your pharmacy or prescribed by your doctor or ordered from the companies which make them. You may call either company at:

Allergy Control Solution Spray - 1-800-422-DUST

Akarosan - 1-800-234-0816

A third indoor air pollutant of undetermined importance is asbestos. We know that asbestos exposure can lead to lung cancer over long periods of time but the exact danger of asbestos in schools and homes is yet to be determined. The theoretical risk was scary enough for the United States to enact the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act which is administered by the EPA and requires inspection of school buildings and specifies clean up methods. Any homeowner in doubt about friable asbestos particles falling inside their home from insulation in their walls or around pipes or soundproofing materials should contact a local state or federal environmental agency for advice. Another indoor air pollutant which is not so common in the South, but occasionally is a problem, includes heating by fireplace, potbelly stove or an open furnace for heating or cooking purposes. Another common air pollutant is animal dander and the worst by far is cat dander. Certain proteins in a cat's saliva are very important causes of allergy. A cat licks itself and then rubs up against furniture throughout the house so the dander becomes very heavily spread throughout the house. If one is attached to their cat and yet has kids who are allergic, at least wash the cats often and clean furniture and carpets and places where they rub against.

Another pollutant which is a problem in certain parts of the country is radon. The exact danger of radon in increasing lung cancer is uncertain at this time. It may prove to be a real hazard for people exposed to it over a long period of time. Fortunately, radon is one cancer causing chemical which is not a big problem in Louisiana. Another set of potential indoor pollutants include biologic pollutants such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Good general house cleaning and use of Lysol and regular airing out helps to prevent exposure to these. Avoid any standing water, damp corners or even damp medical equipment such as vaporizers.

There are other less common indoor pollutants potentially risky to our children but the big three to keep in mind are cigarette smoke, house dust mite, and cat dander.