Breathe in deeply.
Can you feel your lungs getting full? Imagine that the same air is full of small particles that can make your lungs hurt.
One of the most often-cited reasons? Mold.
As a homeowner, you might not even know that there is mold in your home, but it could be making you and your family sick.
In this article, I’ll talk about how mold can harm your lungs and how an air purifier can help you and your family stay safe.
So, take a deep breath and let’s get started.
Respiratory Irritants and their Effects
Respiratory irritants are things in the environment that can make the respiratory system inflamed or react in other bad ways.
They can be found in everyday things both indoors and outdoors.
They can make it harder to breathe and cause coughing and wheezing, among other symptoms.
People with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should stay away from lung irritants because they can make their symptoms worse.
Types of Respiratory Irritants
- Examples of respiratory irritants include tobacco smoke, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, dust, chemicals, and smoke.
- Irritant gases are a type of respiratory irritant that can cause an inflammatory response in the respiratory tract mucosa, usually due to the release of acidic or alkaline radicals. Soluble irritant gases cause severe burning and other manifestations of irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, trachea, and major bronchi. Marked cough, hemoptysis, wheezing, retching, and dyspnea are common symptoms of acute exposure to irritant gas. The upper airway may be obstructed by edema, secretions, or laryngospasm.
Effects of Respiratory Irritants
- The effects of respiratory irritants depend on the extent and duration of exposure and on the specific agent.
- Direct exposure to the epithelial surface of the airway irritants often leads to symptoms related to upper airways, such as rhinitis, eye irritation, and conjunctivitis, and respiratory symptoms such as tracheitis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and alveolitis.
- Inhaling air pollutants can irritate the airways, which may lead to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and worsening asthma symptoms.
- Chronic exposure to irritant gases or chemical vapors may lead to chronic bronchitis, although the role of such exposure is especially difficult to substantiate in smokers. Chronic inhalational exposure to some agents causes lung and other cancers.
- Though the respiratory system has remarkable resilience to air pollution via its repeated mobilization of defense and repair mechanisms, constant exposure to elevated particle pollution will contribute to reduced respiratory function, even in apparently healthy people.
Avoiding Respiratory Irritants
- People with chronic lung disease, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, and sarcoidosis, need to stay away from irritants that can trigger symptoms.
- They should avoid outdoor pollution such as dust, vapors, fumes, gases, and other chemicals, as well as strong odors from scented room fresheners, mothballs, and insect sprays.
- Cold weather can also make it harder to breathe and exacerbate symptoms.
- To avoid respiratory irritants, people should stay indoors as much as possible on smoggy days.
- If exposure to irritants cannot be avoided, using a short-acting bronchodilator such as salbutamol 20 to 30 minutes before exposure can help alleviate symptoms.
- Some people are also sensitive to certain allergens, which can cause swelling (inflammation) in the lungs.
Common Sources of Respiratory Irritants and Protection
Indoor Respiratory Irritants
Inside, chemicals from cleaning products, tobacco smoke, exhaust fumes, and dust are all common sources of respiratory irritants.
Pet dander, bacteria, mold, and chemicals from building materials, candles, and fuel-burning equipment like furnaces are also irritants that can be found indoors.
Irritants can also come from personal care products, pesticides, cleaning and deodorizing products, and the furniture in a building.
It is recommended to regularly vacuum carpets, area rugs, and floors with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter to keep indoor air from irritating your lungs.
Keeping the home’s relative humidity level low, between 30 and 50%, can also help.
Using a high-efficiency filter (MERV 13 or higher) with your heating and cooling system can help keep the air clean by removing things like smoke, pollen, and dust.
Most of the time, the best way to improve indoor air quality is to get rid of or reduce individual sources of pollution.
Outdoor Respiratory Irritants
Pollen, weather, and air pollution are all things that can bother you when you’re outside.
Pollution in the air can come from a lot of different places, like factories, cars, or smoke from wildfires.
When wood or other plants are burned in a wildfire, the smoke contains harmful gases and small particles that can trigger an asthma attack.
There are many gases that can cause irritation.
Some of the most important ones are chlorine, phosgene, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and ammonia.
Some things, like bis[chloromethyl]ether and certain metals, can cause lung and other cancers when inhaled for a long time.
It is important to pay attention to air quality forecasts on the radio, TV, and internet to avoid breathing problems when you are outside.
We should only work out in gyms and sports centers when we work out.
In places where there is a lot of smoke from forest fires, a simple dust mask is not enough.
We should wear the right gear to protect ourselves.
Protecting Ourselves from Respiratory Irritants
Infections and allergies can be caused by irritants in the air, so it’s important to stay away from them.
Taking care of our hygiene is one way to keep ourselves safe.
When we cough or sneeze, we should cover our nose and mouth, preferably with a paper tissue, and throw away the used tissue right away.
After blowing our noses, we should also wash our hands well and not touch our faces.
Also, we should stay away from people who are sick and try not to get too close to them.
When dealing with smoke allergies and other irritants to the lungs, we should limit how much we are exposed to them.
We can keep indoor air as clean as possible by closing windows and doors, using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, and not smoking tobacco or burning candles.
Lastly, we can avoid respiratory illnesses like the flu, colds, and COVID-19 by getting vaccinated, taking everyday precautions, getting enough vitamins and minerals, living a healthy lifestyle, and managing our stress.
We should also keep our homes and offices clean and free of germs, especially places like doorknobs that a lot of people touch.
We can protect ourselves from irritants that get into our lungs, but they can still hurt our health.
By following the tips outlined in this article, we can reduce our exposure to respiratory irritants and improve our overall respiratory health.
HEPA Filters and Air Purifiers
What is a HEPA Filter?
HEPA is an acronym for “high-efficiency particulate air” filter.
It is a type of pleated mechanical air filter made of either plastic (PP+PET) or fiberglass.
Theoretically, HEPA filters can get rid of at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and other airborne particles that are at least 0.3 microns (m) in size.
They are also very good at getting nanoparticles.
Particles get caught in the filter’s fibers as air moves through it, which is how HEPA filters work.
How Do HEPA Filters Work?
There are two ways for HEPA filters to clean the air stream.
The first is one or more outer filters that work like sieves to stop dirt, dust, and hair that is bigger than the holes.
The second part is a “contraption” made of what looks like folded paper.
The outer gauze “pre-filter” can make the inner HEPA filter last much longer.
HEPA filters are used in air conditioners, air cleaners, and vacuum cleaners.
They are very good at getting rid of dust, pollen, mold, certain bacteria and viruses, dust mites, PM2.5, pet dander, and a number of other solid allergens found in indoor air.
Hospitals often use HEPA filters, which are sometimes called “medical-grade” HEPA filters.
H13 HEPA filters are an advanced type of HEPA filter that can get rid of even smaller particles that are only 0.1 microns in size.
Benefits of Air Purifiers
Air purifiers with HEPA filters can be highly beneficial for individuals who suffer from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions.
Dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and viruses are just some of the things that these devices can remove from the air inside.
Air purifiers can help reduce the number and severity of respiratory symptoms by getting rid of these irritants.
People who live in places with a lot of pollution in the air can also benefit from air purifiers.
Particulate matter, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide are all types of lung irritants that can be found in outdoor air pollution.
People can reduce their exposure to these irritants and protect their lung health by using an air purifier with a HEPA filter.
Maintenance and Replacement
All air cleaners need to have their filters cleaned and replaced every so often for them to work properly.
Follow the maintenance and replacement instructions that the maker gives you.
There are strict rules about how to make and use HEPA filters.
In Europe, HEPA filters have to get rid of 99.95% of particles, but in the US, they only have to get rid of 99.97% of particles.
Because of the way they work, HEPA filters are very good at catching nanoparticles.
In the end, irritants to the lungs can have a big effect on our health and well-being.
Air purifiers with HEPA filters can be highly effective at removing these irritants from indoor air, reducing the frequency and severity of respiratory symptoms.
By following the maintenance and replacement instructions given by the manufacturer, people can make sure that their air purifiers continue to work well and offer the best protection for their lungs.
Benefits and Maintenance of HEPA Filters
What are HEPA Filters?
HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air, and these filters are designed to remove up to 99.7% of airborne particulate matter.
HEPA filters work by forcing air through a fine mesh, which traps small particles such as pollen, pet dander, smoke, and dust mites.
How Can HEPA Filters Help with Respiratory Irritants?
HEPA filters can help bring allergy relief by trapping pollutants that cause allergies.
They can get rid of most of the viruses, allergens, and PM2.5 that can make allergies worse and are linked to many different diseases.
HEPA filters can also get rid of smoke particles and other pollutants in the air, which can help people who have trouble breathing.
Pet allergens and hair can stay on furniture and carpets, making the air inside dirty and making people with allergies sick.
These allergens can be caught by HEPA filters, which can improve the air quality inside.
Using HEPA filters in vacuum cleaners can also help reduce the amount of dust and tiny dust mites that get thrown back into the room when you vacuum.
What Can HEPA Filters Capture?
HEPA filters are designed to capture a wide range of airborne particles.
The US Department of Energy says that in theory, HEPA filters can get rid of at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any other airborne particles bigger than 0.3 microns (m).
True HEPA filters are put through a lot of tests to make sure they catch 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger.
Dust mites, pollen, pet hair, bacteria, viruses, mold, and microorganisms can all be caught by HEPA filters.
What Can’t HEPA Filters Capture?
It’s important to remember that HEPA filters aren’t made to get rid of gases and smells.
Look for a HEPA filter with activated carbon filtration if you want to get rid of gases and smells.
Choosing the Right HEPA Filter
When choosing an air purifier, it is important to find out how much air the filter can clean and to buy one that is big enough for the room where it will be used.
You can buy HEPA filters at most home improvement stores and on the internet.
HEPA air cleaners use less energy, but you should change the filters every three months to get the most out of them.
HEPA filters are a good way to clean up the air inside and make it easier on your lungs.
They can get rid of dust mites, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, viruses, mold, and microorganisms that are in the air.
To get the most out of an air purifier, you should choose one that is big enough for the room it will be used in and change the filter often.
Limitations of HEPA Filters
Understanding Respiratory Irritants and Air Purifiers
Air purifiers often use HEPA filters to catch small particles like dust, pollen, and pet hair.
But the life of a HEPA filter depends on the type of filter, the quality of the air, and the environment.
As a general rule, HEPA filters that can be changed should be changed every 6 to 12 months.
However, some filters may last longer or shorter, depending on how they are used and the conditions.
It’s important to replace the filter the way the manufacturer tells you to.
Limitations of HEPA Filters
HEPA filters are effective at removing particulate matter like airborne pet dander, pollen, smoke, and dust.
But HEPA filters aren’t perfect and can’t get rid of all the harmful things in the air.
For example, HEPA filters can’t get rid of pollutants in the air that are smaller than 0.3 microns.
This includes viruses, some bacteria, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
VOCs are things like hairspray and ammonia that can’t be caught by a HEPA filter because they are too small.
Activated Carbon Air Filters
Activated carbon air filters can get rid of smells, chemicals, and gases (like smoke), but they can’t get rid of germs or allergies.
On the other hand, HEPA filtration purifiers can catch allergens but not smells, chemicals, gases, or smoke.
Maintenance of Air Purifiers
Air purifiers may have HEPA filters and carbon pre-filters that need to be changed every 3 months.
Permanent filters don’t need to be changed, but they should be cleaned every so often to get rid of any dust that has built up.
Air purifier filters need to be changed often because over time, the particles that get caught in the filter can build up and make the air purifier less effective.
Every six months, or twice a year, HEPA filters should be changed.
HEPA filters are good at getting rid of small particles from the air, but they can’t get rid of all harmful pollutants in the air.
They also need to be replaced often.
You should think about what your home needs and choose an air purifier that meets those needs.
By knowing what HEPA filters can’t do and what kind of maintenance they need, you can choose an air purifier for your home that will work well for you.
In the end, lung irritants like mold can have a big effect on our health and well-being.
Even though getting rid of mold in our homes may seem hard, buying an air purifier can make all the difference.
It can help get rid of mold spores in the air and also make the air in our homes better overall.
But it’s important to keep in mind that an air purifier is not a miracle cure.
Mold and other allergens can grow in our homes if we don’t clean and take care of them on a regular basis.
It’s also important for our safety and health to get help from a professional if we think we have a mold problem.
So, if you have an air purifier or are thinking about getting one, remember that it’s just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to keeping your home healthy.
Let’s be responsible for our homes and put our lungs’ health first.
After all, we can’t live without the air we breathe.
Links and references
- “Respiratory Irritants: An Overview” by Michael D. Lebowitz
- “Acute Toxicity of Respiratory Irritant Exposures” article published in SpringerLink
- “Irritant Compounds: Respiratory Irritant Gases” article published by the Czech Society of Occupational Medicine