Health and environment
Health and environment

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Health and environment

5.5 Indoor pollutants

Before leaving air pollution you might reflect that many of us spend most of our time indoors where the air quality can differ from that outside the building.

Question 30

In what ways will the air be different inside a building?

Answer

The air is sometimes described as stale. Usually this just means that it is warm, but it can also mean that there are odours from bodies and a slightly elevated carbon dioxide content from people exhaling. If there are smokers, there will be tobacco fumes too. A condition called ‘sick building syndrome’ has also been described.

'Sick’ buildings suffer from air pollution of a particular kind. Ozone formed at ground level from traffic emissions can react with materials in furnishings, such as carpets, to produce toxic fumes of chemicals (for example formaldehyde and benzene) which are tissue irritants. These give rise to symptoms of nausea, headaches and dizziness. They also exacerbate any respiratory disorders.

The same is true of tobacco smoke as it too contains formaldehyde. Eyes and throats tend to be most irritated by tobacco smoke. A great deal has been written about passive smoking so you'll probably be aware that some of these noxious tobacco fumes are carcinogenic and can damage the lungs of non-smokers too.

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