Worsening Indoor Air Quality Linked to Increases in Asthma & Allergy Problems

Does it seem like your asthma, or a family member's asthma, is giving you more and more problems? If so, it is not just your imagination.

It is no coincidence that asthma cases have increased by more than 100% over the past 20 years. Or that death rates due to asthma have tripled since 1976. Or that hospitilization and doctor office visits due to asthma have risen dramatically in recent years.

The fact is, worsening asthma cases have coincided with the emergence of the indoor air quality epidemic. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns us, indoor air quality has become the nation's number one environmental health problem, anywhere from 2 to 10 times worse than outdoor air pollution.

How do we know that indoor air quality is the main culprit?

First, consider that during the last 20 years, we have improved asthma medication (although many still cause a variety of undesirable side effects) and our understanding of asthma tremendously.

Secondly, we know that genetics is not the cause of the recent alarming growth in asthma difficulties, since 20-plus years is nowhere near long enough for such a dramatic genetical effect to take place.

In which case, this leaves us with the conclusion that the cause is environmental. This makes perfect since, considering that most asthma attacks are triggered by environmental triggers, or airborne contaminates and allergens.

Many would believe that the air in the great outdoors poses the greater risk for asthmatics, since pollution and allergens are commonly associated with "outside".

However, it is the air in our homes, schools, workplaces, and other indoor environments that have the most severe impact on our respiratory systems. To begin with, indoor air is several times more unhealthy than the air outside, as the EPA states, even though it may seem to be clean.

Every indoor environment, irregardless of how clean it is, will be filled with sources for microscopic dust mites (over 50% of the weight of the average pillow is dust mites), chemical vapors (your home may seem clean, but what did you clean it with . . . chemically-based household cleaners!), floating dead human skin (guess what over 80% of what you see floating in ray of sunshine entering your home!), and countless other pollutants from numerous sources.

The reason indoor air pollution is more severe than outdoor pollution is that nature's most powerful air-cleansing agents (negative ions and low-level ozone) have a chance to break down pollution outside. However, our air-tight, energy-efficient homes block these natural air cleaners out, while trapping and recirculating airborne pollutants inside.

It's interesting that air-tight, energy-efficient homes and buildings became a standard about 20 years ago, in the wake of the energy crisis of the 1970s, around the same time that asthma problems began rising sharply. Plus, people spend over 90% of their time indoors, meaning that indoor air has a far greater impact upon our health one way or the other.

Furthermore, a recent study found that the allergen level in super-insulated homes is 200% higher than it is in ordinary homes.

As the indoor air quality epidemic grows worse, air purifiers become more popular. However, most air cleaners on the market are simply inadequate, while very few actually make a difference ().