New construction or furnishing materials, cleaning products, detergents, window cleaners… all these common products contain chemical substances which accumulate inside our homes and offices.
If separately the doses are, sometimes, acceptable or harmless, the accumulation of these chemical substances and especially the repeated exposure can induce serious consequences for health. We spend 90% of our time in closed places: home, office, shops, leisure….
The WHO estimates, in a report on Indoor pollution dating from 2012, that indoor environmental pollution was directly involved in 17% of deaths, all pathologies combined. Even if the exact links of cause and effect remain to be established, it is recommended to be concerned about the various sources of pollution of the internal environment and to prevent it.
Two health implications
To understand this emerging subject, the WHO gives this definition of Indoor pollution: “the presence of physical, chemical and biological contaminants in the air of confined environments, and which are not naturally present in large quantities in the environment. exterior”.
The scientific concern being very recent, the exact effects of indoor pollution on health are still poorly studied scientifically and complex. Multiple pollutants that can induce the same disease or different symptoms from one person to another. However, it is accepted that there are two major types of impact of this pollution on organisms.
One is manifested by strong allergic reactions immediately after contact with the pollutant, such as sneezing attacks, watery eyes, coughing, red patches on the skin. The other, more serious reaction manifests itself years after exposure, with the appearance of more serious pathologies such as asthma, atypical pneumonia or cancer of the respiratory tract.
Common pollutants at home
In general, the most frequently found substances are called volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) and include a multitude of substances: carbon and hydrogen, halogens, oxygen, sulphur, chlorine, etc.
VOCs are widely used in the manufacture of many products and materials (paint, varnish, glue, carpet, tiles, cleaners, cigarette smoke, new fabrics, etc.). Their common point is to evaporate more or less quickly at room temperature and thus end up in the air.
Some compounds, such as benzene or vinyl chloride monomer, are associated in the scientific literature with leukemia or cancer. To help you see things more clearly, here is a list of the main pollutants commonly found in homes.
The best known compound of this family is formaldehyde. It is present in many commonly used products: insulating foams, lacquers, glues, varnishes, inks, resins, paper, household products, pesticides, emissions from new books and magazines, etc. Most chipboard and plywood (furniture, building materials, glues) contain them. It is also used in some medicines, cosmetics and textiles.
Formaldehyde is an eye, nose and throat irritant. Its role in the onset of cancer has been proven in animals but has not yet been established in humans.
SOLVENTS (Ex. Tetrachlorethylene)
Very commonly used in industry, they are found almost everywhere: air freshener, home fragrance, cleaning product, moth repellent, air freshener, petroleum solvent glue formulations, fuels, tars, varnishes, lacquers, paints , varnishes, soaps, cosmetics, fungicides, herbicides, wood treatment, cigarette smoke, DIY products, furniture, construction and decoration, waxes, wood varnish, carpets, rugs.
Their toxicity has been known for years, although the effects of prolonged exposure to lower doses have only recently been known. In almost all patients, there are problems with concentration and memory, emotional problems or depression that can lead to suicidal thoughts. Neurologically, the signs are: headache, paresthesia (tingling), dizziness, uncertain gait. Their mutagenic and carcinogenic potential is proven.
A family of several dozen compounds, PCBs have been used on a large scale for their resistance to heat. Very chemically stable, the lifespan is 20 to 50 years, which means that even after the ban on their marketing, they are still found in the environment. Their combustion at 550-650° in the presence of oxygen releases dioxins (PCDD) and furans (PCDF)
Most often are observed: tearing, swelling of the eyelids, pigmentation of the skin, edema of the limbs, sleep disorders and fatigue. Neurological lesions manifest as sensory neuropathy with deafness and areflexia. Sensory nerve conduction velocity is always affected. Their involvement in the occurrence of cancer is attested.
FLAME RETARDANTS. Organophosphates.(Flame retardants)
Research and detection of these substances (TBEP, TBP, TCEP, TCPP, TEHP, TPP, TdCPP) have been developed recently. Tests have shown their presence in the umbilical cords of newborn babies and in the blood of European parliamentarians…. We find impressive concentrations of these substances in mattresses, pillows, foams and even cleaning products.
They present, because of their neurotoxicity and their persistence in the body, a significant danger especially for the youngest. These substances are also classified as very probably carcinogenic to humans.