Do you Struggle with Asthma? Air Pollutants Might be a Factor.
The amount of asthma sufferers has been on the rise since the 1980s and now stands at about twenty-five million people in America alone. One of the main reasons for this is the prevalence of air pollutants we are exposed to in the US in our daily lives. It is well known that air pollutants aggravate asthma and severe pollution can trigger an attack.
So how does pollution aggravate asthma? The airways to the lungs are lined with smooth muscle. That muscle can be irritated by airborne pollutants, become inflamed and swell up. This blocks the airways as the muscle effectively causes the airway to become constricted and the flow of air to the lungs is threatened. During an attack, the asthmatic will cough and wheeze, struggling to take in enough air through the constricted airway. People who know they have asthma will usually control it with inhalers, which can open up the airways and allow the person to breathe freely again.
Combinations of factors usually cause asthma. An attack might have a variety of triggers. For example, your environment plus your genetics all contribute to whether or not you develop asthma. There are also possible emotional factors. More children than adults, about one in ten, have asthma. Could this be related to an increase in both indoor and outdoor pollutants?
Outdoor and Indoor Pollutants and Their Effects on Asthma
While asthma has a genetic component, it is also aggravated by environmental factors. Outdoor pollution, ozone, and airborne particles all contribute to the rates of asthma attacks. We don’t have a great deal of control over what’s going on outside our homes, but indoor pollutants play a role and are easier to manage. Air fresheners, smoke from cooking, and commercial household cleaning products, among other things, all affect air quality at home and can contribute to asthma attacks. There may be a strong link between the widespread use of spray cleaners and asthma. Spray nozzles on bottles are so well designed now that they can spray very fine mists of product into the air and it’s almost inevitable that some of these particles would be inhaled and cause inflammation to the airways. Cleaning chemicals contain ingredients called asthmagens.
Asthmagens are chemicals that can both cause asthma and trigger asthma attacks. For more information on asthmagens, see this article. Many of the chemicals in cleaning products may have chemical reactions once they are exposed to oxygen. Combined with existing air pollutants, the chemicals that get released into the air may cause further reactions that damage our health.
Indoor Air Pollutants are Easier to Control
Summer is usually the time of year with the most high-pollution days. The air is full of particulate matter from vehicles and barbecues. Summer heat can trap pollutants in the atmosphere and asthma sufferers are usually advised to stay indoors to avoid becoming ill. It would be very helpful if the air inside the home were kept as clean as possible, and that means avoiding toxic products.
There are many benefits to choosing cleaning products that do not become airborne, like soap and water, white vinegar or baking soda. They work as well as commercial products. Barring an unusual sensitivity, they don’t have adverse effects on our health like harsh spray cleaners do. According to a 2010 study by the New York Department of Health, children born to women who have worked as cleaners during pregnancy have a higher risk of birth defects. It’s important to keep dust and pet dander under control, as they are also considered irritants, but instead of using a commercial spray cleaner, it’s possible to just use a rag slightly dampened with water. There are many non-toxic cleaners available on the market, or better yet, make your own.
Struggling for air is terrifying and those of us lucky enough to be asthma free cannot imagine how challenging it is. Considering how many options we have to control the air quality in our own homes, it’s good to know that there is positive action we can take to reduce our needless exposure to toxins at home.