Toxic fumes killing us slowly from the inside


Date: 22/10/2002

Staying indoors to avoid environmental pollution could be worse for our health than we realise, according to a leading air pollution expert from the University of Western Sydney.

Dr Sue Reed says we should get out of the house more because staying inside exposes us to dangerous pollutants that could be slowly damaging our health.

"Thousands of Australians are breathing potentially harmful air pollutants simply by living in their homes," Dr Reed says.

"People think they can close their doors on air pollution and breathe cleaner air inside but frequently air pollution levels may be higher inside than outside.

"People's lifestyles are becoming more sedentary; they watch more television and work or play on the computer more often, subjecting themselves to excessive indoor air pollution," she says.

"New houses, new furniture and new paint can be some of the worst sources for indoor air pollution. All surfaces allow air pollutants to be emitted, but new surfaces emit pollutants at a higher rate.

"Australians may also be exposed to these pollutants when they are patients in hospital, students at school, or at work in the office."

Dr Reed says the problem is heightened by the attempt to conserve power by keeping windows and doors shut, particularly when air-conditioning is used.

"Reducing fresh air in the home causes air pollutants to build-up to a potentially harmful level, especially for asthmatics," she explains.

"Every day, more people are being diagnosed with allergies, migraines, asthma and other respiratory diseases. Many of these conditions and symptoms are caused by, or exacerbated by, indoor air pollution.

"Our research at UWS is currently identifying the sources of indoor air pollution so we can find ways to decrease the levels and exposure to air pollutants. Potential sources include vapours from new paint or varnish, carpet and new plastic as well as mould and mites.

"The best advice we can give at the moment is to get out of the house more often and keep some windows open when we are at home."

Dr Reed also welcomes the latest call to establish a national body to address indoor air quality in Australia, following the release of a new report on indoor air quality from the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies.

"An integrated, national approach to address indoor air quality is a major priority for the health of all Australians," Dr Reed adds.

Sue Reed is an occupational hygienist who has been contracted by the World Health Organisation to provide training in air pollution in several Asian countries.

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Media contact: Suzie Vlaming, Senior Media Officer, 9678 7429, 0414 308 701, s.vlaming@uws.edu.au

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