Living in a clean environment with clean air and water, followed by adequate sun exposure is an important consideration for optimal health.

In this section, we will explore how all these factors can be accomplished in greater detail.

Air

air

Did you know that a person can only live without air for up to 3 minutes? (1)

This explains why clean air is such an important component for our overall well-being.

In fact, you will be shocked to learn that an average adult breathes about 11,000 litres of air every day. (2)

That’s a huge amount if you do your math.

It’s almost a thousand times the amount of water that we need on a daily basis.

However, is the air we are breathing in really clean?

The Truth About Air

According to U.S. EPA, the air inside your home is 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside.

It could contain pollutants that are harmful to your health.

What’s really scary is most of these pollutants are colourless, odourless and not visible to the naked eye.

There’s a saying that what you can’t see, kills you the most.

This is particularly true in this case.

haze

Haze in Singapore (source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SG_haze-skyline.JPG)

Some common pollutants and contaminants found in home interior air include:

• mould spores

• pollen

• bacteria

• dust mites

• asbestos

• radon decay products

• other seen and unseen particles and impurities

In Singapore, we have to cope with the annual haze too. (3)

How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affects You?

Poor air quality can lead to a host of health issues which range from headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation, fatigue and dizziness.

It could bring on the symptoms of some diseases like asthma, humidifier fever and many others.

Respiratory and chronic health issues may surface from long-term exposure to polluted air over a period of time. (4, 5)

According to WHO, indoor air pollution is responsible for 2.7% of the global burden for disease which includes pneumonia, chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer and others. (6)

Why Clean Air Is Important?

Why Air Purification Is Necessary?

The use of an air purifier is recommended as part of environmental control measures for people who suffer from allergic respiratory disease. (7)

Based on a small study from China, exposure to purified air reduced the risk factors for heart disease in many young and healthy adults. (8)

Therefore, it should be beneficial for everyone since the health of your lungs is dependent on the quality of air that you breathe in.

The elderly, children and women spend the most time at home.

Hence, they are most vulnerable to indoor air pollution.

In fact, the use of air purifiers has successfully reduced the presence of particulate matter and allergens in homes.

This will provide significant health benefits for folks who have cardiovascular or asthma related issues and the general public. (9)

Looking For The Right Air Purifier?

Atmosphere Dismantled

Dismantled Air Purifier That I Own

Since there are several types of air purifier available in the marketplace, my primary focus would be on picking those that are portable for your home.

Follow these guidelines from the U.S. EPA to get the right unit:

What Type Of Pollutants Can It Remove?

Since household pollutants can be classified into 2 categories: Particulate Matter and Gaseous, the air purifier that you select should be able to remove both forms of pollutants.

You should ask for the contaminants list before getting the unit.

What Is The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR)?

This will determine the effectiveness of the air purifier in removing air particles.

It is developed by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).

Therefore, it is important for you to pick an air purifier that is AHAM certified to ensure that you are getting your money’s worth.

Other Things To Consider:

Is the unit easy to install?

If the unit is easy to install, it should be easy to maintain as well.

What are the major costs involved?

You should take into consideration the initial cost, maintenance, filter replacements and operating cost (in terms of electricity consumption).

Does it remove odours?

Since air purifiers designed for particle removal are not capable of removing gaseous pollutants, they will still remain together with the odour that they produce. For example, cigarette smoke.

Does it soil the surfaces in your home?

Since ion generators produce charged particles which they are incapable of removing from the air, they may end up dirtying your walls and other surfaces.

Is the noise bearable?

Portable air purifiers that come with fans may produce a lot of noise.

However, they are needed for a more effective clean. (10)

Why I Love Atmosphere?

I own a portable air purifer unit known as Atmosphere.

Here’s a great intro video on the technology behind Atmosphere:

Here are a couple of reasons why I love this unit:

1. Capable of removing up to 99.99% of airborne contaminants and is AHAM certified. (11)

2. Does an excellent job of cleaning up the air in my home in 30 minutes on Turbo mode.

3. Very easy to install and maintain.

4. It is capable of removing both particulate matter with its Pre-Filter and HEPA filter and gaseous pollutants with the activated carbon filter.

Atmosphere Control Panel

Atmosphere Control Panel

5. LED indicators are provided to notify me of when to change the filters.

6. The Intelli-Sense technology does an excellent job of picking up odours in the air and remove them even before I start to notice it.

7. I like the fact that it is Energy Star certified and consumes very little energy. (12)

8. It is very easy to operate and provides both Auto and Manual mode.

I normally set it on Auto mode since it will adjust its operating speed (between 1 to 5) to clean the air according to the current state.

In most cases, it will be operating at speed 1 unless there’s huge change in the air quality in my home.

What’s Inside Atmosphere?

Water

water

Did you know that 45-75% of our body weight is water?

In fact, a loss of 1 to 2% of water in our body can impair our cognitive function. (13)

Therefore, your mum is right for reminding you to drink water regularly to replenish the loss water from your body. 🙂

Why Is Clean Water Important?

Clean water is needed for the following purposes:

Drinking water

Major sources of drinking water come from streams, lakes and rivers.

When you have clean water sources, your utility companies will be able to provide cleaner drinking water with less treatment required.

Businesses

Reliable and clean water sources are needed for the growth of many industries like farming, tourism, manufacturing, energy production and recreation.

clean-waterRecreation Activities

Many people enjoy water sports like kayaking, canoeing, swimming and fishing.

These activities are only possible when the water is clean and free of pollution.

Wildlife

Promotes a healthy ecosystem for the sustenance of wildlife. (14)

Is A Water Treatment System Necessary?

According to WHO, 2 million people die from diarrhea annually due to unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene.

You will be saddened to know that majority of them belong to children under 5 years old.

Therefore, don’t take your clean water for granted. 🙂

In fact, the use of water treatment systems is recommended for improving the quality of drinking water to reduce diarrheal diseases.

This will make a huge difference in the lives of many folks who rely on polluted water sources, unsafe piped supplies and wells. (15)

While the WHO supports boiling water as an effective way to remove pathogens in your drinking water, it does not remove other waterborne contaminates like lead, which is commonly found in water during the transportation process through pipe lines and fixtures to your homes. (16, 17, 18, 19)

Why Should You Be Concerned With Lead?

First of all, lead is not usable by your body.

water purificationHowever, it is absorbed and stored in various tissues, especially our bones and teeth.

It circulates in our blood stream as well.

While a certain amount of lead can be excreted by your body, the efficiency depends on your age.

An average adult may absorb 3 to 10% of lead from the water that they drink while kids may absorb up to 50% which is quite a lot.

Lead does not only enter our body through drinking water, it enters your body through the air that you breathe and food that you eat too.

It affects the health of every organ and system in your body regardless of how it enters it.

Your nervous system is the main target for lead toxicity.

An increase in blood pressure, reduction in nervous system functions, brain and kidney damages, and even death are possible consequences of excessive lead exposure.

This explains why it is important for you to have some form of treatment available for your drinking water. (20)

How Do I Choose A Water Treatment System?

eSpring

A water treatment system that I own at home.

Picking the best water treatment system for your home needs is as simple as asking the right questions.

  1. Determine The Cleanliness Of Your Water

This can be achieved by getting a water quality report from your local utility/authority.

If this is not possible, you can have your water independently tested.

  1. Decide On Which Contaminants You Want To Reduce

Once you are aware of the contaminants that are found in your water, you will be able to decide on the water treatment solution that is designed to meet your concerns.

Water filters are not designed equally.

Some may be able to remove more contaminants than the others.

You can use the NSF water contaminant selection guide to locate the best solution to meet your needs. 

  1. Compare Your Options

There are generally 2 types of system: Point of Use and Whole House/Point of Entry

Some of them remove 1 contaminant while others remove many contaminants.

Therefore, it all boils down to your needs.

Point of Use systems treat the water that you drink directly or use for cooking and other purposes.

They include faucet filters, water pitchers and reverse osmosis systems.

Whole House/Point of Entry systems treat the water that enters your home.

They are installed near your water meter or pressurized storage tank.

Some examples include water softeners, UV microbiological and whole-house filters. (21)

Why I Love eSpring?

Personally, I am using a Point of Use system known as eSpring for the following reasons:

It not only improves the taste and clarity of the drinking water; it destroys more than 99.99% of waterborne disease causing bacteria with its unique UV light technology.

The system has patented Activated Carbon Block Filters which reduce more than 140 contaminants which may pose a threat to your health.

I love the fact that it gets rid of the contaminants while retaining the beneficial minerals like magnesium, calcium and fluorine which are naturally present in water.

It has a LED display that shows whether the unit is functioning properly and gives off signals when the cartridge needs to be replaced or if there’s any issues with the unit.

eSpring has been awarded the following certifications, 42 (Aesthetic Effects), 53 (Health Effects) and 55 (UV Technology) by NSF International, a renowned testing agency. (22)

Besides being certified by NSF, it is awarded the WQA Gold Seal, which is given to water treatment systems that meet or exceed industry standards for structural integrity, material safety and contaminant reduction. (23)

With these accolades in mind, there is no wonder why the eSpring is also the world’s no. 1 best-selling water treatment systems based on Verify Markets study in 2014. (24)

eSpring Cartridge Comparison

I was shocked to see the colour of the used filter.

Sun Exposure

sun

Are you someone who dislikes the sun for the wrong reasons?

Did you know that the sun plays an integral part in the development of our health besides helping plants to acquire energy through photosynthesis? (25)

Perhaps you have heard about the dangers of excessive sunlight exposure can pose to your body and you should avoid it like the plague?

Well, I used to have similar thoughts since I am not supposed to be under the sun due to my challenge with discoid lupus.

If you are someone who is struggling with the same issue as me, you may want to consult your doctor before going under the sun for the right reasons.

In fact, exposure to UV radiation has its own pros and cons.

It all boils down to sensible sun exposure at the right timings.

The Sun And Types Of Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation

uv rays

Types of UV Rays (Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthlydelights/4423552407)

The sun is considered dangerous because of the UV radiation that it contains.

UV radiation can be classified into 3 categories: UVA, UVB and UVC

They are classified according to their wavelength.

This means UVA has the longest wavelength while UVC has the shortest.

UVB is somewhere in the middle.

UVC is considered the most harmful form of radiation since it has the shortest wavelength.

The good news is; it is completely filtered by the earth’s atmosphere.

Therefore, you shouldn’t get too worried about it.

On the other hand, UVB is responsible for delaying the tanning and burning of the skin that you experience while under the sun.

It is known to contribute to rapid skin aging and development of skin cancer.

Fortunately, most UVB is filtered by our atmosphere.

95% of the UV radiation that enters Mother Earth belongs to the UVA category.

Unlike UVB which cannot penetrate beyond our superficial skin layer, UVA is capable of penetrating the deeper layers of our skin.

Hence, it is responsible for the immediate tanning of our skin, which also contributes to skin aging and wrinkles.

Many people think that exposure to UVA will not pose any long-term damage to the body.

Recent studies suggest otherwise.

In fact, studies strongly suggest that it could lead to the development of skin cancer as well. (26, 27)

Why Is Sunlight Good For Your Body?

Now that you are aware of the various dangers that sunlight can pose to your body, let’s explore why it is good for you too.

In fact, the sun plays an important role in the following areas: –

Vitamin D Production

sunshine benefitsUVB helps in the synthesis of vitamin D by our skin.

The production of vitamin D is dependent upon the efficiency of UVB from the sun that enters our skin which can be affected by our clothing, sunscreen, skin pigments and body fat.

For instance, people with very fair skin will trigger the release of 50,000 IU of vitamin D, circulating in their body within 24 hours from a 30-minute exposure to the summer sun in a bathing suit.

While people with tanned skin may get 20,000 – 30,000 IU, and those with darker skin may get between 8,000 to 10,000 IU.

The initial photosynthesis process at our skin will produce vitamin D3 which is mainly converted into 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) by our liver.

This major form of vitamin D is circulated in our body.

The vitamin D3 also undergoes another transformation in our kidneys and cells to form 1,25(OH)D.

1,25(OH)D is a hormone that accumulates in our intestines to enhance the absorption of calcium and phosphorus.

It regulates bone-calcium metabolism by controlling the flow of calcium in and out of our bones.

In fact, low vitamin D levels have been associated with increased risk of osteoporosis and other bone diseases like osteomalacia in both men and women.

Cancer

While excessive UVR exposure has been linked to the development of skin cancer, inadequate amounts may result in the prevalence of other cancers that involve the breast, colon, prostate and many others.

Therefore, it all boils down to sensible exposure to the sun in order to receive beneficial effects against other cancers which are not related to the skin.

Other Health Links

Getting high amounts of vitamin D in the body has been shown to reduce the incidence of multiple sclerosis.

Besides multiple sclerosis, having adequate amounts of vitamin D at an early age will reduce your tendency to develop type 1 diabetes by up to 80%.

Lower levels of Vitamin D in people who lived at higher altitudes have been linked to higher risk of hypertension and cardiovascular issues.

Exposure to the sun and higher (25[OH]D) in our body may offer protection against illnesses like asthma, infectious diseases and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Adequate amounts of 1,25(OH)D may help to inhibit induction of diseases in collagen-induced arthritis, autoimmune encephalomyelitis, systemic lupus erythematosus and many others.

However, the actual amount needed is still lacking for most autoimmune conditions.

Sleep

Since exposure to sunlight or bright artificial lighting will trigger the production of melatonin sooner, you will find it easier to fall asleep at night. (28)

What Is The Optimal Time For Sun Exposure?

Between 10 am to 2 pm when it is close to the solar noon. (29)

How Much Sunlight Is Enough?

sun exposureSince your skin pigmentation can influence the rate of UVB absorption to produce vitamin D, it can be quite difficult to quantify the actual amount that you need.

Other factors that can influence the amount of sun exposure that you require include the time of the day, weather conditions along with how much skin is exposed.

For instance, it may only take a few minutes for a person with very fair skin to get sufficient sun exposure for vitamin D production while putting on a bathing suit at noon.

Folks with tan skin like me may take 15 to 20 minutes while other folks with dark skin may take about 6 times longer. (29, 30)

What Are The Dangers Of Prolonged Exposure To The Sun?

Prolonged sun exposure has been known to lead to both chronic and acute health issues.

Sunburn is the most common form of acute effect that stems from excessive sun exposure.

Long term effects include premature skin aging, photo dermatoses, eye cataracts, actinic keratosis and skin cancer.

Did you know?

Between 2 – 3 million folks suffer from non-melanoma skin cancers.

Approximately 130,000 cases of malignant melanomas occur globally every year.

12 – 15 million people become blind due to cataracts worldwide, 20% of these cases were caused or enhanced due to sun exposure. (31)

What Can I Do To Limit My Exposure To The Sun?

Here are some ways to achieve this objective:

  1. Stay out of the midday sun.

10 am to 4 pm is the time period when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest.

Therefore, it will be better for you to limit exposure to the sun at this timing.

  1. Leverage on the UV Index

Avoid excessive sun exposure by using this resource to plan your outdoor activities.

The UV index offers recommended sun protective measures according to the intensity of the sun rays based on the different timings. (32)

  1. Use shades

A trick to know when to use shades to minimize your exposure to the sun is to look at your shadow.

wearing a hatWhen your shadow is short, it means that the sun is very intense.

Therefore, it will be a good time for you to use shades like umbrellas, trees and canopies.

Since shades do not offer complete protection from the sun rays, it is vital for you to use other protective measures as well.

  1. Put on protective clothing

These clothing include wide brim hats, sunglasses and loose tightly woven clothes.

  1. Use sunscreens that offer broad spectrum UV protection

The sunscreen that you choose should offer both UVA and UVB protection.

It should be at least SPF 15+ and reapplied every 2 hours or after working, swimming and playing/exercising outdoors.

Make sure the sunscreen offers at least 4-star UVA protection to be on the safe side. (33)

The idea of using sunscreens is to limit your exposure to the sun and not as a means to prolong your exposure. 🙂

  1. Avoid sunbeds

They are commonly found in sunlamps and tanning parlours.

They can damage your skin and unprotected eyes.

Bottomline:

Behavioral changes towards sun exposure is necessary in light of the growing UV levels entering the atmosphere. (34, 35)

Living Environment

living environment

I am sure most of us are aware of the benefits that a clean living environment provides.

Perhaps your mum or a helper is the one that does most of the cleaning in your home.

In this section, I will share with you some insights that I have gotten from my own experiences in helping my mum to keep my living environment clean.

Why Is A Clean Living Environment Important?

A cluttered living space leads to confusion in your mind, may result in injuries from falls, loss of important documents and medications. (36)

Hence, making sure your living environment is clean and clutter-free helps to improve your overall quality of life.

In fact, getting your family involved to clear up the clutter in your home is one of the best ways to relieve stress and anxiety in your life. (37)

How Do I Go About Doing It?

If you can’t find time as a family to do it, you can lead by example, starting with your own room or personal space.

Eventually, your family members will follow your footsteps if they see you doing it on a regular basis.

That’s what happened in my case.

I am sharing a bedroom with my elder brother and he is starting to see the benefits of clearing up his space.

Floor

Vacuuming the floor daily and mopping it on a weekly basis is what I have done to keep my home clean.

We used to mop it at least 2 to 3 times a week in the past when there was constriction going on in our neighbourhood.

Bedroom

Changing bedsheets, pillow case, bolster case and mattress protector at least once every 2 weeks to get rid of dust that may have accumulated on the bed.

When your living space is clean, you will be not less likely to fall sick due to allergens.

This is especially true for our friends who have pets at home.

Removing the animal dander is so important especially for folks who are allergic to them. (10)

General

Using cleaning agents which are made from naturally derived ingredients which are dermatologist tested also helps in the process of keeping your living environment clean and safe for everyone.

Products which have been given the U.S. EPA, Design For The Environment award would be preferred since they are safer chemistry. (38)

Bottomline:

Set aside 15 to 30 minutes every week to declutter and clean up a certain area of your home.

Clean your home regularly with products which are certified by U.S. EPA for a safer clean.

Reference List

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2. Sharecare. How much oxygen does a person consume in a day?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.sharecare.com/health/air-quality/oxygen-person-consume-a-day. [Accessed 21 September 2016].

3. The Straits Times. 2015. Annual haze crisis to stay despite Indonesia’s efforts. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/annual-haze-crisis-to-stay-despite-indonesias-efforts. [Accessed 22 September 2016].

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Published on 23 Sep 2016

Summary
Environment 101 – Developing A Conducive Environment For Better Health
Article Name
Environment 101 – Developing A Conducive Environment For Better Health
Description
Learn how to make the necessary changes to your living environment and adopt new habits to make optimal health possible.
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Publisher Name
Yeo International
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