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Researchers identify major sources of in-home air pollution

Smoking habits come out on top, but other threats exist as well

Photo (c) HaywireMedia - Fotolia
Previous studies have linked poor air quality in the home to respiratory problems and even kidney failure, but what are the main contributors to in-home air pollution?

Most people would naturally point to habits like cigarette smoking as the primary cause, but a new study from San Diego State University found that there are, in fact, several sources of air pollution that can be found in any home. The research was conducted in the hopes of finding ways to improve air quality for families with children.

"The aim of our research is, ultimately, to find effective ways to promote smoke-free homes and also to find good strategies, in general, for reducing exposure to household pollution. The findings from our work will allow for better education and feedback to families,” said lead author Neil Klepeis.

Sources of air pollution

Klepeis and his colleagues recruited nearly 300 San Diego-based families with at least one child to participate in the study. Air particle monitors were installed in areas of the home where the child slept and where any smoking activity usually occurred.

Over a three-month period, the monitors measured air quality data and transmitted it to the researchers for analysis. During that same time, the researchers conducted two interviews that asked participants about any activities that were going on in the house that would affect air quality, such as cooking, cleaning, or smoking habits.

At the study’s conclusion, the researchers found that tobacco smoking was indeed one of the leading causes of in-home air pollution, but surprisingly there were other sources that warranted concern.

The researchers found for the first time that marijuana smoking produced just as much in-home air pollution as tobacco smoking. The researchers say that other sources such as burning candles and incense, frying food in oil, and spraying cleaning products also increased the number of fine air particles in the air that could be harmful to residents’ health.

Understanding risks

Going forward, Klepeis said that he and his team would continue trying to improve air monitoring services so that families better understand the health risks of certain habits and products they use in the home.

"Our research team is continuing to develop novel monitoring devices and approaches that consumers can use to understand their air quality, and to explore ways that work for them and their families to reduce unhealthy pollutant exposures, especially for kids," he said.

The full study has been published in PLOS ONE.

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