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60-Second Earth

Worried about Air Pollution? Don't Hide Indoors

Scientists are uncovering more and more evidence that the air in buildings can be bad for you. David Biello reports

You need to get out more. Whether it's smog or tiny particles of pollution, Americans face the bulk of their health risks from bad air inside. Why? We spend most of our time indoors.

Now researchers have found chemicals from indoor air someplace we might not want it: our blood. The research is in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

A variety of the chemicals used to make everything from carpets to couches resist stains showed up in the serum of 31 Boston office workers. The researchers found the highest levels of these chemicals in the air inside new buildings and, subsequently, in the blood of those who worked there. The office workers even had traces in their blood of one of these compounds withdrawn from use roughly a decade ago.

It could be worse. Hundreds of thousands of people die each year from soot from the indoor fires they use to cook or heat their homes. And the health impacts of these chemicals in humans remain unclear—though in animals they affect the liver, the immune system and reproduction.

So crack the window from time to time. Open the door. Get some fresh air.

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.] 

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