Smoke kills

We worry about the quality of the air outside, but we forget that we spend 90% of our time indoors and often worsen the air quality ourselves. Scientists develop a concept of exposome — a combination of various factors affecting us. What we exhale, spray, and burn inside the room can bizarrely interact, forming a sea of toxins. Once our ancestors were sick and died prematurely because they drowned in black and swallowed soot. Now we have an opportunity to breathe high-quality air. Here are 10 ways we harm ourselves.

  1. Incense sticks. Incense sticks, when burning, form multiple incomplete combustion products that increase the risk of lung damage (COPD, lung cancer, respiratory tract cancers). Their regular use is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and cognitive impairment.

2. Gas stoves. Like any open flame in a closed room, they are harmful (an increase in levels of nitrogen oxide, PM2.5 benzene particles, etc.). Thus, 12.7% of cases of childhood asthma in the United States are associated with gas stove use, comparable to the effect of passive smoking on children. Also for adults, it worsens the course and increases the risk of death among patients with severe disease.

3. Heating systems with open fire (fireplaces, wood stoves and kerosene heaters etc.). The intensive wood-burning process is associated with the inhalation of combustion products. Just three hours of exposure to smoke from burning wood increases arterial stiffness and reduces heart rate variability. In the long term, accelerating atherosclerosis increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Wood burning increases the risk of developing lung diseases by 37 percent on average (compared to central heating).

4. Candles. Prolonged burning of candles in rooms with poor ventilation is harmful to health. Gorenje Limit candle use, ventilate, and use natural wax candles (or vegetable waxes), not paraffin candles, as they are safer. Regular burning of candles is associated with increased bladder cancer (accumulation of paraffin combustion products).

5. Carbon dioxide and “gaseous feces”. Each person emits a large amount of carbon dioxide, accumulating in the room and can cause many symptoms: decreased productivity, headache, fatigue, and poor sleep. Supply and exhaust ventilation, especially in bedrooms.

6. Mold, dust, tick feces, and pollen. The dust from our skin can accumulate more than 45 toxins from air and plastic (ranging from heavy metals, and antiseptics, ending with phthalates that affect fertility). Then we inhale these particles and deliver the toxins directly to the lungs. Clean regularly, and use an anti-dust design.

7. Air fresheners. Air fresheners contain many molecules that interact with oxygen and ozone to form a lot of formaldehyde (HCHO) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

8. Cleaning. The active use of aggressive cleaning agents, disinfecting and disinfecting increases the risk of allergies and asthma. The cleaning process leads to increased dust particles in the air, so it must be done in the absence of children, with windows wide open, and wearing a mask. Sensitive people can use vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters. Keep washing powders, and detergents in a room with ventilation and hermetically sealed. Deterioration of pulmonary function for a cleaner is comparable to smoking a pack a day.

9. Low-quality materials. Plastic, chipboard, etc. Many dangerous volatile compounds can be released into the air during aging, heating, and light ingress. Give preference to natural materials (stone, tile, wood, metal, etc.).

10. Cooking. Frying red meat produces many particles in the air containing carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that can penetrate the skin and lungs. And also the smoke from cafes and restaurants where it is fried is especially dangerous. Frying red meat on an open fire increases the risk of pneumonia, asthma and other lung diseases by 40–60 percent.

What to do? At a minimum, do not harm yourself — minimize harmful actions. Ensure high-quality house ventilation, cook on a gas stove with a hood, and avoid exposure to smoke often. The fireplace is beautiful, but it’s safer behind glass. Monitor the air quality in the house. It is possible and necessary to use HEPA filters if necessary (in a large city), but remember that ozonators and ion purifiers can worsen air quality.

Composition, Emissions, and Air Quality Impacts of Hazardous Air Pollutants in Unburned Natural Gas from Residential Stoves in California Environ Sci Technol. 2022 Nov 15; 56(22): 15828–15838.

Indoor incense burning impacts cognitive functions and brain functional connectivity in community older adults Scientific Reports volume 10, Article number: 7090 (2020)

Incense use and respiratory tract carcinomas: a prospective cohort study Cancer. 2008 Oct 1; 113(7): 1676–1684.

Emissions of soot, PAHs, ultrafine particles, NOx, and other health relevant compounds from stressed burning of candles in indoor air. 2021 Nov;31(6):2033–2048. Indoor Air

Solid Fuel Use and Risks of Respiratory Diseases. A Cohort Study of 280,000 Chinese Never-Smokers Am J Respir Crit Care Med

Cleaning products and respiratory health outcomes in occupational cleaners: a systematic review and meta-analysis. 2019 Feb 1;199(3):352–361.

Exposure to wood smoke increases arterial stiffness and decreases heart rate variability in humans Part Fibre Toxicol. 2013; 10: 20.

Cleaning at Home and at Work in Relation to Lung Function Decline and Airway Obstruction Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2018 May 1;197(9):1157–1163.