Pollution Prevention Measures
There are many things we cannot control in life. We are becoming busier to make a living and many times we forget how to live! However, we only have one body and once health is lost, nothing else matters anymore. This is why it is essential to do whatever we can to control what can be controlled and, by this, prevent or minimize the health risk due to pollution exposure through daily activities. Here are some hints on how to proceed:
- Ventilate well the space you live in - ensure good air ventilation (with outside air) of your home and your office space, especially in the areas (rooms) where you spend more time. For example – keep the windows open. The longer you keep them opened, the better. During cold seasons, if safe to do so, keep the windows opened while you are away. This will ensure dilution and diffusion of any potential intruding gaseous compounds (volatile chemicals).
- Ventilate your garage. If the garage is attached to the house, create air ventilation in the garage allowing air circulation from outside. If the garage communicates with the house by a door, do not keep the door open at any time. This will prevent or minimize the intrusion into the living indoor space of volatile organic compounds from the gasoline tank.
- Store your household chemicals (including cleaning products, paints, fuel canisters, etc.) as far away as possible from the living space and, if possible, in metal cabinets. Do not store chemicals in areas where you spend most of the time. Also, do not store chemicals in open cabinets or shelves. Keep them in the garage or in a separate structures/building from the main home – if one exists. If no garages or separate structures exist, keep the chemicals in closed metal cabinets. This will prevent exposure to the volatile chemicals that may evaporate into the indoor air. Even small amounts of such chemicals intruding into the air could become significant due to exposure over a potentially long period of time.
- Regularly vacuum, clean, and wipe the dust – dust contains particles of various sizes (from those visible to the eye to those of microscopic dimensions. Such particles may contain various pollutants such as heavy metals or organic chemicals. Additionally, the finer particles (less than 10 micrometers) are quite risky for health due to the easiness of penetration in the human body. Thus, it is essential to keep the living space clean at all times.
- Avoid living (or spending most time) directly above an enclosed parking structure. If your home directly overlays an enclosed parking garage (you live directly above an enclosed parking structure), then you may be at risk of vapor intrusion. This means that some of the volatile organic components of gasoline from the parked cars (such as benzene) will get into the parking structure air and from there may move upward and accumulate in your indoor air. Such chemicals may pose serious health risks if repeated exposure over a long time occurs (even at low concentrations). If this is your case, then it is advisable to test your indoor air while keeping all the windows and doors closed (during the testing period). If any health risk is proven, then you may consider legal advice as you may be entitled to compensation. Also, you may consider special measures to ventilate the garage or if this is not possible, moving away.
- Evaluate the area before moving or buying real estate – make sure you are not within a block from an industrial site, a dry-cleaner's establishment, an auto-repair shop, and other sites with potential polluting problems. Also, it is advisable to be farther than 1 mile from a major airport, harbor, or train station, as well as a municipal landfill, a foundry, or a mine. Finally, even after you did all these checks and everything seems OK, you may want to sample the soil and indoor air from your potential new home just to confirm that no pollution problem exists.
- Drink water only from well monitored and trusted sources – tap water may be just fine and better than bottled water since every municipality/city is monitoring its quality on a regular basis. If you choose to drink tap water, a home filtration system may be advised. These systems are easy to install and less expensive than bottled water. But it saves you the effort of continuous supplying with bottled water. Whatever your choice is, never drink water from a private well unless regular monitoring exists and you are given the reports regularly.
- If you are in a risk category based on your home location, test the soil in your backyard before allowing your kids to play outside on the ground. Soil acts as a sink for many contaminants released into the environment. In arid climates (such as in CA) this is especially true as little water is available to carry away contamination (except when regular irrigation is practiced).
- If you have a garden, irrigate your lawn on a regular basis – this way, many of the contaminants sorbed to surface soil can be removed.
- Avoid using pesticides or herbicides in close proximity to your home – these chemicals are usually highly toxic even to humans. Their spreading on vegetation and the ground may act as a secondary source, adding chemicals in the air and possibly in the breathing area.
- Avoid using mothballs or other similar products – use alternative measures such as keep your sensitive clothes in tightly closed plastic bags during the periods when you do not wear them. However, if you really need to use mothballs or other chemicals, use them in closets that are not in the room you spend most of the time in. Also, keep the door to your room closed and ensure good air ventilation in your room.
- Always ventilate well after using cleaning chemicals on your carpet, furniture, etc. The same is valid when you use glues. This will ensure the rapid dilution and elimination of potentially toxic levels of chemicals in the breathing zone.
- Always wear a mask when spraying chemicals or working with paints – as a general rule, if a chemical smells it is probably bad for your health and thus the more preventive measures to minimize your exposure, the better.
- Get legal advice – if, following the steps above, you realize that you have already been contaminated or are at risk, it is still not too late to do something about it. You may be entitled to monetary compensation for the damage. A case-by-case evaluation is needed. For a possible evaluation of your case, get in touch with a pollution professional.