Open fires this winter… romance or risk?

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Relaxing in front of a roaring open fire seems like the perfect way to spend a winters evening. Or is it? Researchers from the UK and Ireland believe the pollutants from an open fire are having a direct impact on our health, increasing our risk of developing diseases such as Dementia.

Air pollution affects our brain too

We have known for some time that exposure to pollutants affects our respiratory and cardiovascular health. But this latest study has been looking at the link between pollutants and how they affect our cognitive function, that’s our ability to learn, our memory, our problem-solving skills and our attention.

Pollutants from fires worse than traffic

The study, published in the Environmental Research journal, looked at data from over 7,000 homes with open fires, where the occupants were 50 years and older. According to the findings, burning a coal fire for five months of the year could expose a person to more pollution than commuting along a busy road every day for a year.

According to lead researcher Professor Barbara Maher of Lancaster University,

Open fires are essentially harming friends and family every day ….we discovered that the level of exposure to particulate matter from open fires is comparable to and may well exceed the levels people are exposed to from roadside sources.”

Women at greater risk

The team carried out tests to measure word recall and verbal fluency, they found that women over the age of fifty were more likely to be affected than men of the same age. They believe this is due to the fact that women generally spend more time in the home and therefore more time next to the fire.

Ultra-fine particles are to blame

The burning of fuel, in this case coal, produces gases and Particulate Matter (PM). Particulate Matter is categorized according to its size in microns, PM10, PM2.5 and Ultra Fine Particles (UFP’s). When inhaled, these UFP’s are small enough to pass through the lining of the lungs and into the blood stream. From there, they travel to all parts of the body, including the brain, causing inflammation. And it’s this inflammation in the brain that leads to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia later in life.

Ways to improve air quality in your home

Are you concerned about the air quality in your home? Even if you don’t have a coal fire, there are numerous sources of pollution in the home, from gas stoves and cleaning products, to scented candles and new furnishings. All are potentially releasing harmful contaminants into your living space. When possible, try to avoid using harsh chemicals for cleaning, opt for natural products like those from Branch Basics. If you have a gas stove in your kitchen, ensure there is adequate ventilation. Try to avoid furnishings that will off-gas in your home, instead choose natural materials that produce little or no chemicals.

For complete peace of mind

If you’re still concerned about the level of contaminants in your home, you may want to consider investing in the Austin Air HealthMate Plus™. Using Medical Grade HEPA and Activated Carbon, the HealthMate Plus will remove a wide range of contaminants including, chemicals, allergens and the smallest particles. For more info on the Austin Air HealthMate Plus why not visit our shop page today.