Domestic pollution. Tips to prevent it | Part 1 |

One of the astonishing aspect of the new Spanish building regulation is the fact that although it is very much focused on saving energy, we architect are compelled to design a ventilation system in all bathrooms and kitchens to extract air from these wet rooms and inject fresh air from outside on all bedrooms and living rooms. 

Grills have to be installed on internal doors so that air is circulated from outside throughout the building, causing a waste of energy (hot or cold) that it is lost due to this circulation.


When we asked the Housing Ministry Department how would they explain that incongruity they explained that cancer was rocketing due to the fact that houses are being made airtight as the external joinery are much more hermetic and little air ventilate the new building and more plastic and toxic materials are being used.


So the wastage of energy was worth it if the new houses were better ventilated.


Look around.

We are surrounded by chemical agents on the walls, parquet, cleaning products and even on carpets. They are persistent and hidden in the home dust, in the living room paint, carpet and even in your new mobile phone. Since we spend 66% of our lives indoors, according to a WHO-Europe study, the pollution we breathe inside is important according to Dr. Santiago Nogué, vice president of the Spanish Foundation for Clinical Toxicology, who informs about the risks of domestic pollution and tell us how to remove these toxins from home.


The good news is that getting rid of them is easier and cheaper than you think, as we will see. According to Doctor Nogué “We do not realize the amount of chemical agents that we introduce into our home through carpets, new furniture, building walls finishes and even the silicone covers of mobile phones," warns the doctor. "These materials are 'alive': they keep releasing volatile substances into the air." And they do it for a long time: between five and ten years.


Take the following precautions.

If we take some precautions, this contamination will not represent a major problem for the respiratory system, since our body learns to tolerate it and, simply, explains Nogué, stops reacting to these substances. "This is true in 99.9% of cases," he says.


Although for some less fortunate, the mechanism does not work, because their body becomes "hypersensitive" to these substances and reacts to the presence of some household pollutants, as if it were a type of allergy or chemical intolerance. "These people can suffer respiratory conditions, malaise and even physical and mental fatigue," says the doctor. For them, getting rid of household pollutants is a matter of survival, "but we all need to learn how to get toxins out of the house," says Nogué.


Fresh clean air.

The quality of the air we breathe at home fluctuates. If we imagine a room in which we have just painted the walls, it is easy to understand that the atmosphere is loaded with toxic substances and surely we will soon open the windows to ventilate. But the domestic atmosphere also varies when we buy new furniture or when we use penetrating odour cleaning products. In fact, there are studies that claim that using cleaning products can be as harmful as smoking.


And there are still other hidden pollutants. According to the European Environment Agency, the main ones are radon (a radioactive gas that forms in the ground which I have written about in other articles), tobacco smoke and the gases or particles of burned fuels, in addition to other chemicals and allergens.

Also the way to heat the house can leave combustion products in the air. And it affects how we cook - for example, the gas oven can release carbon monoxide (CO), among other substances - the dust retained in furniture, mites ... Until properly ventilated -or, by otherwise, deficient - increases or decreases domestic chemical pollution.


The best thing to avoid having toxic substances at home is not to put them in in the first place. But if this is impossible, get rid of them as much as you can.


1. Ventilate, ventilate and…

To get the toxins out of the home, we don't just have to clean, we also have to ventilate. In fact, opening the windows is the cheapest, fastest and easiest way to reduce chemical pollution, a gesture that renews and cleanses the indoor air.


For ventilation to be effective, all windows and doors must be opened at once. And even better, if they have a facing position, since the aeration will be more complete. Nor is it necessary to leave the windows wide for hours. If we ventilate well, ten minutes is enough time to renew the air at home. And another tip: try repeating the gesture twice a day, as you will decrease the internal concentration of contaminants.

More to follow next week.

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