Breathing is something we do without thinking. Unless we're practising yoga or another activity which requires us to control it, we breathe subconsciously. Maybe that's the reason many residents ignore the possibility that what they're breathing in at home could be doing them harm.
The reasons for the air in your home being harmful can vary, and not everyone will be affected by the same causes, or feel the same symptoms. So where to start? Well there are several potential causes of unsafe air in the home, so let's run through them.
If you live in an area high in radon gas you could be damaging your health while at home. Radon is both colourless and odourless, meaning that without professional help it can be hard, and probably impossible, to detect. A radioactive dust is produced by radon which can be present in the air we breathe. There is potential for this dust to become trapped in the airways of the body, with the radiation damaging the inside of our lungs. As a result of this damage - similar to the harm that smoking causes - we can increase the risk of lung cancer.
The larger the presence of radon in the air of your home, the longer you are exposed to it, and the higher risk you are subject to. Official figures reveal that radon causes over 1,000 deaths from lung cancer in the UK each year. Half of these deaths are reported to be among smokers, who make up a quarter of the UK's population.
So what course of action should you take, if you feel you are at risk, or are simply curious as to the radon levels in your home? The first step would be to have your radon levels measured, before deciding whether to have a home ventilation system professionally installed. When it comes to your health, there is nothing more serious, so to have the air in your home analysed by trained experts may be a decision you thank yourself for in years to come.
Another problem, also common and similarly misunderstood by many residents, is that of mould. While many of us consider mould to be an aesthetic problem which simply requires cleaning, we are missing the potential side effects of mould build up that have the potential to seriously impact on our health.
There is a long list of people that can be especially adverse to the effects of mould, be it black spots on shower curtains, orange mould that builds up around kitchen sinks, or white patches found on the floor of basements. Those with allergies or asthma are known to be high up on the list in terms of risk, while infants, the elderly, HIV or cancer sufferers and those with lung disease are also at risk from the side effects of mould in the home.
A short term plan to overcome this domestic problem is to clean mould as and when it develops. This should be done wearing gloves, eye protection and a respirator, when necessary. Long term, however, this is not a viable solution, and only with adequate ventilation in your home can you squash the issue of mould, and its potentially harmful effects, for good. Consulting experts is the best way forward in order to identify the buildup of hot spots in your home, and you should also install a suitable ventilation system.
The harmful effects of moisture, which is the root cause of mould, in the home can also put many of the people mentioned above, such as allergy sufferers and the elderly, at risk. Like mould it can attack our immune system, which is the body's safeguard against illness that keeps us fit and healthy. Those that already have a weak immune system, for whatever reason, should be especially wary of any moisture or mould build up, while those with skin problems are another group that government health warnings pick out as being more likely to suffer as a result.
Moisture can infiltrate our homes by many routes, leaving us at risk from its effects. It could enter from a leaking pipe, be a by-product of rising damp in a basement, or come in through the gaps around windows or holes in a roof. Newly built homes can be affected more than older addresses. This is because the materials used to build them, such as plaster, can contain water which takes a while to 'dry out'.
Condensation, caused by the warm air coming into contact with cold surfaces around the home such as windows and walls, is another way in which moisture builds up and eventually turns to mould. Again, professional advice focused on assessing the ventilation in your home can go a long way to discovering and then addressing the cause of any moisture and mould, reducing the risks at home.
Mould is not always visible, which is another reason professional testing is preferable in order to test the condition of the air in a home. Mould can crop up in spore form in the air, and affect breathing without any build up being seen in a house.
The presence of potentially harmful elements in your home's air can lead to a vicious cycle of sickness. Scientists have proven that those who are suffering from the effects of mould in the home are also more likely to be at risk from house dust mites that are commonly found in households.
In the modern era we have the knowledge and technology to detect and prevent the potential causes of illnesses which are the result of the air in our home. If you have any inclination to believe the air in your home could be causing or contributing to an illness of some sort, we advise first making an appointment with your GP and secondly having the air in your home professionally tested. Ultimately, it is better to be safe than sorry. Call EnviroVent on 0345 27 27 807 for a no obligation chat and benefit from expert advice on whether you are at risk from the air in your home.