Most people know to avoid the poisons found in harsh household cleaners or other materials not meant for human consumption, but it's much more difficult to avoid the invisible poisons present in air and water. They can be odorless and tasteless, and only make there presence known through their deleterious effects on human health. Most people encounter at least one or two of these five common poisons every day:
Unlike regular diatomic gaseous oxygen, ozone is made up of three oxygen atoms. In the upper atmosphere, ozone is vital for protecting earth from the sun. In the lower atmosphere, it forms when other pollutants breaks down in sunny conditions and causes respiratory irritation, damages lung cells, and worsens respiratory problems.
If you live near a road, you're breathing sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide forms from the combustion of fossil fuels. In addition to being one of the precursors to acid rain, it causes nose and throat irritation, chest tightness, coughing, and worsening of symptoms of asthma and COPD.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is the most frequent source of air poisoning in many places. It's an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that forms from the combustion of fuel, and may be produced by fireplaces, gas stoves, heaters, cars, and other fuel-burning consumer goods. Exposure to air concentrations of 35 ppm can cause dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion, lethargy, and death. ADT recommends every home be equipped with a carbon monoxide detector that will protect residents from CO inhalation.
Lead is a heavy metal that is best known as one of the toxic components of old paint, but it can be found in many other places. Some areas have high levels of lead naturally present in the soil. In others, chief sources of lead pollution are metals processing, battery manufacturing, and incinerators. In children, it can cause learning and behavioral problems, lower IQ, and anemia. In adults, it damages the circulatory system, kidneys, and reproductive organs.
Formaldehyde is naturally present in some foods, but higher concentrations can cause problems. Concentrations above 0.05 ppm can cause eye irritation, burning, and redness, sore throat, and sinus congestion. Long-term exposure increases the risk of respiratory cancers.
It's next to impossible to entirely avoid many poisons, especially those present in the air. Using air filters, taking shoes off at the door, and keeping house plants all help improve indoor air quality and protect your health.