The ecological situation in Moscow is far from ideal, but few people think that the air in apartments and offices is also a great danger: it stagnates in enclosed spaces, which increases the concentration of harmful substances and multiplies dangerous bacteria and microorganisms. Life around asked doctors, environmentalists and designers what measures would help improve the ecology of the home and avoid many diseases.
Is the air in the apartment actually worse than the street?
The indoor air is on average five times dirtier and ten times more toxic than outdoor air. Moreover, it is on the premises that most people spend up to 90% of the time. Such statistics are provided by the head of the laboratory of the manufacturer of the Potok Inter air disinfection system Evgeny Kobzev.
Stagnant air contains a large number of microorganisms - including those that can potentially harm human health. The main source of microbes is the person himself. “Pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and various types of streptococci fall into the air from the surface of the skin, and, during breathing, sneezing and coughing, cause pathogens of tuberculosis, various pneumonia and influenza,” comments Kobzev.
Pathogenic microorganisms appear in apartments due to the fact that air conditioners, household air purifiers and forced ventilation devices rarely or poorly serve: for example, a regular home air conditioner, if you do not change the filters in it, can become a breeding ground for the Legionellosis pathogen, which in some cases causes human severe form of pneumonia (up to death). Fighting legionellosis with traditional disinfectants is almost useless. You can only increase the body's resistance, improving immunity, and prevent the growth of bacteria: clean the climate equipment in time, prevent stagnation of warm water (for example, in water heaters).
Another type of air pollution in the apartment that Yevgeny Kobzev points to is mold: “Mold spores that cause asthma attacks and exacerbation of chronic respiratory diseases, such as exacerbating chronic respiratory infections, can get into the air from the surface of walls and ceilings (especially in bathrooms). chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory allergies and pulmonary hypertension. "
What sources of air pollution can be identified?
Dust is dangerous because mites can settle in it. Alena Glushakova, deputy head physician for the medical department of the MEDSI clinic in Khoroshevsky proezd, clarifies that the mites themselves are safe for humans, but their metabolic products can cause the development of allergic reactions, up to the development of bronchial asthma: “If you constantly breathe in dusty air, then respiratory diseases are inevitable systems (chronic diseases of the nasal cavity, pharynx, bronchi, lungs), inflammatory processes, headaches, the occurrence of irritation of the mucous membrane of the eyes due to allergic reactions. "
Automobile exhaust and industrial emissions
Penetrating through open windows, they also pose a health hazard. Exhaust gases contain nitrogen and carbon oxides, sulfur dioxide, aromatic hydrocarbons, and lead compounds. They can cause the development of diseases of the respiratory and nervous systems, provoke the development of allergic reactions, skin diseases.
The smell of cigarettes
Tobacco smoke is harmful not only at the time of smoking: there are a lot of oily resins with high penetrating ability in tobacco leaves, which means that the smoke from them is well absorbed in clothes, upholstered furniture, curtains, carpets. Tobacco tar and nicotine accumulate in the lungs and lead to their diseases, exacerbate allergic reactions and increase the risk of heart disease. To eliminate the smell, you need to constantly ventilate the room, wash fabric upholstery and wallpaper, wash textiles, have powerful ventilation in the apartment or air purifiers with filters specializing in retaining cigarette smoke particles.
Particle Boards and Fiberboard
Particleboard and fiberboard are layers of pressed wood that are interconnected by glue or various resins. Formaldehydes and phenols, carcinogens that increase the likelihood of cancer, stand out from furniture made from this material. The source of carcinogens, according to Alena Glushakova, can also be laminate, linoleum, decorative plastic and cheap building decoration materials.
In Russia, formaldehydes are classified as the second of five hazard classes, where the first is the most serious. Short-term contact with an object releasing formaldehyde will not cause harm, but being in the same apartment as it can cause skin reactions (irritation, itching, rash), eye inflammation, lethargy, frequent headaches, and difficulty sleeping. At the same time, while the source of carcinogens is isolated, for example, chipboard furniture is laminated or veneered, the damage is minimal, but any damage to the surface will become a place for formaldehyde to be released.
Particleboard furniture releases formaldehydes and phenols - carcinogens that increase the likelihood of cancer
Mat near the front door
From the street we can bring pathogens along with dirt and dust. In 2008, the University of Arizona conducted a study: more than 400 thousand different bacteria were found on the soles of shoes. Escherichia coli, Friedlander’s bacillus and Serratia ficaria are carried in large quantities on shoes — these bacteria cause urinary tract infections and respiratory infections. Thus, chemicals can also be brought home: gasoline particles after walking in the rain, toxic fertilizers from the lawn, tar from asphalt or reagents for dissolving snow from the winter streets.
This is a substance of the first hazard class (according to GOST 17.4.1.02-83). If you break a thermometer and at least one ball of mercury rolls behind the furniture or into the gap in the parquet, then mercury in contact with air will release toxic substances. That is why it is important to completely collect and dispose of it, and then disinfect with a solution of potassium permanganate all the surfaces that it touched.
About 80% of inhaled mercury vapor is retained in the body. The longer the exposure and the more volatile particles of mercury entered the body, the more dangerous the toxic effect. Acute mercury vapor poisoning is manifested in an upset bowel, vomiting, and gum swelling. The decline in cardiac activity is characteristic, the pulse becomes rare and weak, fainting is possible. In chronic poisoning, a metallic taste appears in the mouth, friability of the gums, excessive salivation, mild excitability, weakening of the memory, and a strong effect on the nervous system.
Are popular cleaning products dangerous?
As a rule, when choosing household chemicals for the home, people tend to purchase the most aggressive means: with them, you can achieve perfect cleanliness. What you have to pay for by inhaling the volatile toxic substances contained in cleaning and detergents: chlorine, phosphates, surfactants, triclosan, and even perfumes and aromatic enzymes.
“The regular use of toxic household chemicals, especially in poorly ventilated rooms, can cause headaches, various allergic reactions, decreased immunity, and even provoke the development of cancer. You can avoid these harmful effects by choosing environmentally friendly household chemicals and returning to folk remedies for maintaining cleanliness in the house. For example, a solution of vinegar, soda, lemon juice, mustard powder, soap solution and the like is much safer, "says Natalia Edel, head physician at Verba Mayr.
What are the symptoms that indicate that toxic substances are present in the air?
Symptoms that, when they appear, should pay attention to the air quality in the apartment include: headaches, sleep disturbance, nausea, peeling of the skin, bad taste in the mouth after waking up, dizziness, irritation of the eye mucosa. “But you should not panic at the first appearance of one of the symptoms: the state of the surrounding air is not the most common cause of these malfunctions in the body. First you need to exclude the more“ popular ”ones: malnutrition, stress, lack of sleep,” comments Dmitry Gornastolev, chief physician of the Medskan network of medical centers. But shortness of breath, heart rhythm disturbance, loss of orientation in space - these are already symptoms in which you can’t hesitate and you need to immediately call an ambulance. They may indicate a severe allergic reaction or poisoning with toxic substances.
Regular use of toxic household chemicals can cause headaches, allergic reactions, and decreased immunity.
How to make the air in the apartment cleaner?
In the fight for clean air, you need to choose methods depending on the situation and the type of pollution. Vadim Rukavitsyn, an environmental consultant at EcoShopper, advises: if the apartment is located near a large highway or a large plant, install a filter on the supply ventilation valve and do not open the windows for ventilation in the room. And if you use harmful paint, furniture or building materials, on the contrary, you need to ventilate the room more often or purify the air through special household filters if the source of pollution cannot be quickly eliminated.
“Paints, varnishes, adhesives often emit benzene, toluene, xylene and other volatile organic compounds. Particleboard, some types of plastic and polystyrene are saturated with carcinogen formaldehyde in the manufacturing process. There are no unambiguously dangerous and unambiguously safe types of paints and adhesives - it depends on the composition of a particular product, "says the ecologist. Harmful substances may be present, but in a concentration acceptable to humans and not cause harm, therefore, when choosing, you need to pay attention to international eco-labels. Here are the main ones: Ecolabel ("European Flower"), Nordic Ecolabel (Nordic Swan, "Northern Swan"), the German marking Der Blaue Engel ("Blue Angel"), the most common in the USA and Canada, Green Seal and EcoLogo, as well as "Vitality Leaf", the main for Russia.
In case of air pollution, quartz lamps (there are small home models) and ventilation will be most effective. This is especially true if someone has been sick for a long time in the apartment. If the air is contaminated with mold spores, it is necessary to establish its source and the first thing to get rid of the fungus. Also, in this case, enhanced supply and exhaust ventilation and a decrease in humidity to 40-60% will help.
If we talk about universal air purification tools in an apartment, home air cleaners and air cleaners are best able to cope with this task. They differ in a set of filters, each of which is designed to eliminate a certain type of pollution. “Most often, cleaners with a carbon membrane, mechanical cleaning and an ionizer are found. For cleaning bacteria and organics, it is necessary that an ion-catalytic or streamer filter with a closed-type quartz lamp be built into the cleaners,” Vadim Rukavitsyn gives recommendations.
You can partially protect yourself even at the stage of choosing a place to stay. First of all, it is worth considering the presence of a number of large highways, industrial facilities and landfills. If we talk about Moscow, then the ecologist calls the West and Northwest the cleanest, and the central district, south and southeast of the capital are dirty. In addition to the presence of industrial enterprises in these districts, the wind in Moscow mainly blows to the southeast, so dirt from other areas is also blown there. But regardless of the district, each particular house is optimally considered separately, taking into account the relief, remoteness from highways and railways, number of storeys, proximity to the park, communications, type of house, history of the district and other parameters.
Why green the area near the house and ventilate the apartment?
To maintain the functioning of all the systems of the human body, a constant circulatory process is required, which is carried out with the help of breathing: when oxygen enters the cells, metabolic processes occur, due to which energy is released. Respiratory air quality is paramount, so maintaining it is so important. Lyubov Bogdanova, respiratory therapist, head of the International Center for the Study and Practice of Conscious Breathing, advises planting greenery around the house so that the air outside is as clean as possible. The leaves of the trees actively trap dust and reduce the concentration of harmful gases. According to biologists, in the summer, a medium-sized tree produces as much oxygen per day as is necessary for three people to breathe, and a park or grove near the house will remove carbon dioxide from the air layer up to 45 meters thick - this is about 15 floors. It is best to plant chestnut, poplar, elm, larch, and from the bushes - lilac, acacia, wild rose. Indoor plants also contribute to clean air. To select a specific species, you can use the NASA list, which was compiled in 1989 according to a study of plants that help in a confined space not only absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, but also remove some harmful substances from the atmosphere (formaldehyde, benzene, trichlorethylene). There are about 30 plants in this list; of the most effective, with a complex effect - ordinary ivy, golden epipremnum, spathiphyllum, bamboo palm (chamedorea), sansevieria ("mother tongue"), fringed dracaena and garden chrysanthemum. Regular wet cleaning is necessary to maintain air cleanliness: moisture precipitates dust, cleaning the air from its particles.
At the same time, volatile compounds of household chemicals and personal hygiene are often the causes of allergic cough or nasal congestion, runny nose or severe sneezing, so it is better to choose natural means for cleaning rooms and body hygiene.
"Regularly ventilate the apartment: the carbon dioxide released during exhalation is 1.5 times heavier than atmospheric air and accumulates in an unventilated room. And try to spend as much time as possible in nature: it is ecoflora that creates the most favorable respiratory mixture for humans than it cannot boast an urban environment, "advises a respiratory therapist. The air cannot be made absolutely clean, but the person himself, controlling his breathing, can minimize the harmful effects.
Nasal breathing is unique in that it provides hydration and purification of air entering from the outside into the human body. The mucous membrane of the nasal passages traps dust particles and other foreign particles, as well as viruses and bacteria. The special composition of the mucus neutralizes them, and the ciliated epithelium ensures their removal from the nasal cavity.
Lifehacks and gadgets to help keep the air clean
Since wet cleaning is one of the most effective ways to achieve clean air in the apartment, you need to create conditions for it: organize storage, put clothes, books and utensils in closed cabinets and containers, leaving free maximum open horizontal surfaces.
Ideally, you need to think about the air quality in the apartment at the repair stage: choose environmentally friendly materials, advised Sergey and Veronika Kovalev, architects of Artbaza.studio. Solid wood or cork tiles are best suited for flooring: these materials are easy to clean and do not emit toxic substances.For painting walls or ceilings, the architects of Artbaza Studios use Japanese paints with an antibacterial coating and lead-free composition, and they often use whole marble slabs, solid wood, stones and minerals of natural origin in the decoration - all these materials are natural and safe. Keeping the air clean and healthy will help technical innovations. For example, an oxygen generator: it, passing air through filters, converts it into pure oxygen. More standard but also useful are air purifiers and ionizers. “To choose a good air purifier, it is important to know the volume of the room: we multiply the volume by three - that’s how much air the device must drive through itself. Also, when buying, pay attention to the presence of several filters and multi-level cleaning,” advise Veronika and Sergey Kovalev.
In addition to purification, the air needs to be saturated with moisture: then harmful particles will settle on the floor, and not be inhaled; Moreover, a normal level of humidity is good for the respiratory tract and skin condition. The most technologically advanced helpers here are ultrasonic humidifiers. Usually they are equipped with a built-in hydrostat and are able to automatically maintain air humidity in a wide range (from 20 to 90%). When buying a humidifier of any type, you must definitely ask what area the room is designed for.