Every March, Poison Prevention Month is recognized as a way to spread awareness about the potential toxins we face every day. Whether you are in your own home or outside in the yard, your immune system is constantly monitoring changes within your body and responding accordingly. With the presence of toxins being prevalent in nearly every aspect of your life, it is difficult to understand what you are being exposed to and how you may be able to combat the negative side effects. Being attentive to the types of toxins that are present is the first step in the right direction to an overall better well-being.
Unless visible through forms such as smog, air pollution goes mostly unnoticed and is something you may not think about too often. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is globally linked to nearly 7 million deaths per year. Through contaminants such as carbon monoxide and ozone, the ways in which you can be exposed to air pollution comes in many forms.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced as a result of burning fuel. Whether it be through driving your car or cooking on your grill, carbon monoxide enters the air and depending on how much is produced, damage to your organs can occur. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a potentially deadly outcome from this gas, however, more common symptoms of this poisoning are dizziness, upset stomach, and chest pain. To ensure you are not being exposed to carbon monoxide within your own home, you should place CO detectors around your house to alert you if there is an abundance of CO within your air. During 2010–2015, a total of 2,244 deaths resulted from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, with the highest numbers of deaths each year occurring in winter months. CO is an invisible gas so exposure often happens with little to no signs that the toxin is present.
Many people are familiar with the term ozone, but there is a difference between “good” and “bad” ozone. The “good” ozone is the layer in the stratosphere that protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays. “Bad” ozone is found in the troposphere and is a result of the burning of fossil fuels. When gases such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and sunlight mix, this harmful ozone layer is formed. This form of ozone can cause immediate symptoms such as irritation to the respiratory system and skin. If exposed for a prolonged period of time, more serious illnesses can develop such as pulmonary diseases and increased likelihood of asthma and other respiratory issues. The only way that this ozone creation can be prevented is if you are more mindful about the VOCs that you are producing and how often they are produced.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used often in building materials up until the 1980s. This known human carcinogen can be found throughout the home in areas such as insulation, floor tiles, roofing tiles, and even popcorn ceilings. The primary reason asbestos was used is due to its unmatched heat-resistance and ability to absorb sound. If your home does contain some form of asbestos, you are at-risk of developing an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma cancer. When asbestos is disturbed, microscopic fibers are released into the air and have the ability to be inhaled or ingested. These fibers may become lodged in the lining of the lungs and cause tumors to develop, eventually leading to mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can take 10 to 50 years to develop, and may mimic symptoms of other lung-related illnesses, making diagnosis very difficult.
To avoid being exposed to these deadly fibers, it is important to have your home inspected for any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Understanding the age of your home is a huge factor in the likelihood of it having ACMs, and you should stay away from any areas of your home that may have damage prior to it being inspected. If asbestos is found, a professional remediation team should be hired to remove the ACMs and replace them with an eco-friendly alternative.
Benzene is another toxin that can be found both within and outside your home. Benzene is a flammable chemical that when burned, evaporates into the air rapidly. Through vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke, benzene enters the outdoor air in lower amounts than what is typically found indoors. Benzene can be found in higher amounts indoors through materials such as glues, detergents, paints, and furniture waxes.
Exposure to high levels of benzene causes the cells in your body to function improperly. It can lead to a lack in production of red blood cells and anemia. Symptoms typically rely on the amount of exposure and for how long, however, some of the short-term symptoms that occur are confusion, tremors, and irregular heartbeat.
If you believe that you have been exposed to a high amount of benzene there are some safety precautions you should follow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you remove your clothing, wash yourself, and dispose of the contaminated clothing by having a local or state health department come and take the clothing from you. To limit your exposure to benzene, stay away from cigarette smoke and car exhausts when possible and be cognizant of what products may contain benzene within your home.
This March and moving forward, spread the message of how to keep yourself safe from toxin exposure. The more people that are informed about these dangerous toxins, the better off our health will be as well as the health of the environment. Take the necessary precautions to ensure you are not exposing yourself or your loved ones to these dangerous toxins and stay up-to-date as to what you can do to keep toxins to a minimum in your life.