Indoor air pollution

I worked for five years in one of the largest sugar refineries in Europe, located on the north bank of the River Thames, downstream from central London, a location that allowed not only the easy flow of raw materials arriving by ship, but also quick access to the airport. City, 0.5 km away.

I have fond memories of that time, namely the walks to the Thames barrier, where I could relaxly observe the tidal cycles, and the frequent visits to a pub on the royal docks, adjacent to the airport, where I watched planes land parallel to the esplanade.

But despite these attractions, pollution in this area was high, primarily due to the environmental impact of this large-scale industry, and the large number of boats, planes and vehicles circulating within a radius of less than one km. In addition, the refinery’s central building, an iconic tower with two large chimneys, was covered in asbestos. This area did not benefit from the beautiful parks characteristic of London; instead, there was a sewage treatment plant and a recycling center. Not to mention my daily commute to and from work: three hours on the subway, where pollution is 15 times higher than in surface areas.

Whether it was an accumulation of toxins or pre-existing conditions, I started to develop symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome, characterized by sinusitis and irritation of the respiratory tract, so I decided in a rainy September to work for a month from Portugal, in order to make a short break from London. I chose Braga because it is my parents’ place of residence and because it has great air quality levels.  

But in the first few days I began to experience persistent sore throat and phlegm, from which I curiously found myself freed only two months after returning to London. I didn’t think about it again until my next visit to Braga, when the problem returned with renewed force. If the first time I thought I would have overindulged in cold drinks, this time, in the middle of winter, I was intrigued.

How could I explain stronger symptoms in this small provincial town than in one of the biggest metropolises in Europe, where pollution is the current Mayor’s top priority? In 2020, it was even ruled for the first time in an English court that the cause of death of a child residing in London was air pollution. Considered a public health disaster, pollution in the English capital has in recent years reached levels higher than those in Beijing. Served by 6 airports, London is the world’s busiest city. In 2019, the number of vehicles in circulation was, according to the English Department of Transport, 22.9 billion. In addition to this, the Thames is, in the central part of the city, the busiest flow of water in the world.

Given these statistics, what terms of comparison would it be possible to establish between London and the bucolic city of Braga, in the heart of Minho? The answer was given to me a few days later when my parents arrived from the laundry with 15 pieces of clothing. Recent promotions had encouraged us to liberally use dry cleaning services, and in doing so had created a toxic environment throughout the home.

That experience revealed to me what experts have warned me about for a long time, namely that indoor air pollution is worse than air pollution. I started researching more on this subject and found an English social company that provides a test to measure the level of air quality inside homes, but I ended up never needing their services as I just entered a room to be aware of the existence of chemicals.

That’s what happened in October when we rented an Airbnb in Lisbon. Although I had requested in advance that the cleaning be done with bio neutral detergents, the owners had chosen to make a good first impression with an intense aroma. But even though the holidays were marked by this discontent, of course I didn’t mention it in my review, knowing that this aspect would be irrelevant for most people.

Portugal is in an enviable position with regard to air pollution, which, being an invaluable boon, may somehow leave the population unprepared to recognize indoor air pollution as a threat to health, precisely because it does not have developed sensitivity to chemicals.

Suggestion 1: Beware of indoor air pollution. Avoid dry-cleaned clothes with the traditional perchlorethylene (perc) and give preference to laundry rooms that use Wet Cleaning. In Portugal, on the release date of this post, there is 1 system installed in Cantanhede, 1 in São Brás de Alportel and 2 in Lisbon. In London I discovered 1 store in Notting Hill, but I’m sure there are many more.

lagoon Advanced Care

Categories:Interior Design

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