Like most people, when you think about lung cancer risk, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is smoking, which has indeed been confirmed as the primary cause of lung cancer. However, it is not the only cause. There is substantial evidence to suggest that poor air quality can also cause or contribute to the development of lung cancer, infections and chronic conditions like asthma and bronchitis. During Air Quality Awareness Month, the experts at Moffitt Cancer Center encourage everyone to take some simple steps to improve the quality of the air they breathe at home.
But, should you really be worried about indoor air quality? In a word, yes. Air pollution actually consists of much more than smog, that brownish-gray haze that tends to hover over densely populated cities and industrial sites. The air inside your home can also be very polluted. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be up to 40 times dirtier than outdoor air.
One reason for this alarming statistic is that many modern structures are tightly sealed for increased energy efficiency. The downside is that a lack of ventilation can prevent contaminants from escaping once they make their way inside. A few common examples include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, bacteria, viruses, mold and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these airborne impurities can be tracked in from the outside, while others may arrive in household cleaning products, aerosol sprays, paints and carpeting.
With all of that in mind, here are some simple steps that you can take to improve the air quality in your home:
- Designate your home as a smoke-free zone – Tobacco smoke releases more than 4,000 toxic chemicals in the air. Enough said.
- Use door mats – Place a large, absorbent mat in front of every door that leads in from the outside. Ask everyone who enters to wipe their feet – or, even better, to remove their shoes — beforehand.
- Vacuum often – Invest in and regularly use a high-quality vacuum cleaner that has strong suction and a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which can trap many harmful particles. Pay particular attention to carpet edges and upholstered furniture.
- Sweep with a damp mop – Use a microfiber mop dampened with plain water to clean bare floors and pick up any dust left behind by your vacuum cleaner.
- Maintain an optimal humidity level – If necessary, use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to reduce the amount of moisture in the air, which in turn can help keep allergens under control.
- Use unscented products – Most scented cleaning products, air fresheners and the like contain synthetic fragrances that are derived from petroleum and release numerous chemicals into the air.
- Introduce the benefits of nature – Decorate with houseplants, which can act as natural air purifiers.
For more ideas on how to reduce your lung cancer risk, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online to request an appointment with a thoracic oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. No referrals are necessary.