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The Problem of Air Quality: Impact on Public Health

Environmental Factor: Indoor Air Pollution (IAP)

  • Chemical and biological contamination of indoor air
  • Possible sources: tobacco smoke, harmful bacteria
  • Possible sources: dust, household chemicals, fragrance
  • Possible sources: molds, excessive humidity, spores
  • Possible sources: unhealthy building materials (glue/paint fumes)

Note: Poor quality of air in the house is a serious concern when it comes to families with young children. Numerous factors can cause poor air quality, including insufficient sanitary practices that lead to dusty air and the appearance of indoor molds. Unsafe household chemicals and building/renovation materials, smoking, and overusing fragrances at home also affect air quality.

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IAP and Infant Health

  • Immaturity of pulmonary and immune systems
  • “80% of alveoli are formed postnatally” (Tripathi & Laquatra, 2018, p. 1)
  • Breathing through mouth increases health risks
  • Children’s breathing zone is usually low
  • Increased vulnerability to common air pollutants

Note: Infants are more vulnerable to poor air quality compared to adults due to immaturity and the continuous process of alveolar development. Infants tend to breathe through the mouth, which decreases the ability to filter air properly, and the common location of their breathing zone exposes them to gravitating dust and animal fur (Tripathii & Laquatra, 2018)

IAP: Health Effects

  • Possible effects of poor air quality include:
  • Respiratory disease, allergic reactions, asthma, headaches
  • Respiratory infections, cough, sore throat, cancer (Renwick et al., 2018)
  • Fever, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties
  • Cases of poisoning and conditions with coma (Seguel et al., 2016)

Note: The aforementioned sources of IAP can be extremely dangerous for infants due to their undeveloped immune and respiratory systems. The consequences vary depending on the air quality situation and may range from non-severe temporary irritation to life-threatening conditions.

Health Promotion Recommendations/Interventions

  • Eliminate children’s indoor exposure to smoke:
  • Smoke outside, away from windows and doors
  • Change clothes after smoking to touch infants
  • Consider getting professional help to quit smoking (Renwick et al., 2018)
  • Avoid contacting with infants right after smoking (Seguel et al., 2016)

Note: The first recommendation to improve air quality is relevant to smokers and involves eliminating the risks of inhaling tobacco smoke for infants. Infants’ caregivers should not smoke at home or take infants in their arms right after smoking, but smoking cessation is still preferable.

Accident Prevention Recommendations

  • Eliminate infants’ exposure to potentially irritating substances:
  • Avoid diffusing strong perfumes at home
  • Consult with specialists before using essential oils
  • Avoid body lotions/cosmetics with strong aroma compounds
  • Air fresheners are not always safe (Seguel et al., 2016)

Note: The quality of indoor air can decrease if substances with strong odors are overused. Parents should avoid diffusing cosmetic products and perfumes with strong scent when being around their infants and conduct preliminary research, including consultations with professionals, prior to using essential oils and air fresheners.

Health Promotion Recommendations/Interventions

  • Implement safe and effective cleaning procedures regularly:
  • Read and decode labels of cleaning products
  • Regular wet cleaning and vacuum cleaning
  • Consider selecting and using safe air purifiers
  • Give preference to HEPA vacuum cleaners (Seguel et al., 2016; Tripathi & Laquatra, 2018)

Note: Infants’ caregivers are advised to implement safe house-cleaning practices, including cleaning and wiping surfaces using non-toxic products. Vacuum cleaning and air purification can also reduce infants’ exposure to potential allergens, including dust and animal hair.

Health Promotion Recommendations/Interventions

  • Take precautionary measures to prevent mold growth:
  • Keep air humidity levels below 50%
  • Identify and remove sources of extra moisture
  • Check for plumbing leaks and mold smell
  • Use air dehumidifiers/humidity meters if necessary (American Lung Association, 2020; Seguel et al., 2016)

Note: To ensure good air quality, close attention must be paid to the prevention of mold growth. The recommended interventions include keeping track of and controlling air humidity levels, removing extra moisture, and checking for unusual smells in humid areas.

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Health Promotion Recommendations/Interventions

  • Seek health examination with your child:
  • Unusual dryness/discharge/irritation (eye, nose, and skin)
  • Unusual crying (headaches and other causes)
  • Coughing, sneezing, changes to usual breathing
  • Dizziness and the signs of poisoning (Seguel et al., 2016; Tripathii & Laquatra, 2018)

Note: Aside from implementing air quality improvement measures, it is essential to show children to health specialists without delays. The possible signs of conditions caused by poor air quality and their suspected causes should be discussed with health specialists.

Helpful Resources

  • The following community resources might be helpful:
  • Holtz Children’s Hospital (pediatric pulmonology services)
  • 1611 NW 12th Ave, Miami, FL 33136; call (305) 585-5437
  • South Miami Hospital (tobacco cessation services)
  • 6200 SW 73rd St, Miami, FL 33143; call 1-877-848-6696

Note: To promote children’s health, parents and caregivers can use local healthcare resources. Holtz Children’s Hospital offers a range of services for infants with diseases related to air quality. South Miami Hospital’s tobacco cessation programs can also be used by smokers to eliminate infants’ exposure to smoke at home.

Helpful Resources

  • American Lung Association (air quality education materials)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL; helpline: 1-800-586-4872
  • Healthy Children (information on infant respiratory health)
  • Web (safety tips, information on illnesses)
  • Resources promote caregiver education and health literacy

Note: American Lung Association is among national resources that offer materials on air quality standards and disease prevention. Healthy Children provides a comprehensive overview of diseases affecting children, including conditions caused by poor air quality.

References

American Lung Association. (2020). Keep pollution out of your home.

Renwick, C., Wu, Q., Breton, M. O., Thorley, R., Britton, J., Lewis, S., Ratschen, E., & Parrott, S. (2018). Cost-effectiveness of a complex intervention to reduce children’s exposure to second-hand smoke in the home. BMC Public Health, 18(1), 1-9.

Seguel, J. M., Merrill, R., Seguel, D., & Campagna, A. C. (2016). Indoor air quality. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 11(4), 284-295.

Tripathii, E., & Laquatra, J. (2018). Managing indoor air quality in the child breathing zone: Risk analysis and mitigation. Journal of Architectural Engineering, 24(1), 1-9.

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