Care for your air

March 07 2015
care for your air

Published Khaleej Times, August 

Dubai doctors are urging people to be careful of the chemicals they use within the home, and say indoor pollutants are contributing to a rise in fatigue and allergies. 

Dr Salvin George, specialist in internal medicine at Medcare, said air pollution was a very important issue in the UAE, given studies showed most residents spent more than 90 per cent of their time indoors. 

What concerned him most was the many patients he was seeing suffering from unexplained fatigue.

He believed this was due to the indoor and outdoor air quality in Dubai, as it could not be attributed to other causes such as vitamin or autoimmune deficiencies, he told the Khaleej Times.

Central air conditioning systems recycled the same air through many homes, circulating inorganic compound emissions from plastics, cleaning products or furniture polishes, and pesticides.

“99 per cent of the time we’re inhaling them.

“It’s concerning and it should be bought to public attention.”

Children and elderly were most at risk, and he had seen a high number of respiratory conditions affecting these age-groups, he said.

Bronchial asthma could also be triggered by indoor pollutants, dust, and moulds which commonly circulated.

There had been reports of increased lung cancers linked to indoor contaminants and chemicals, however this had not been substantially proven, he said.

“We don’t know the long-term effects. But we have had children dying in the past year due to pesticide poisoning circulating from neighbouring apartments. Each individual has to be careful and try to limit the use of chemicals within their homes, and go for greener options.”

Carbon-based air purifiers could help to some extent, and he also recommended cleaning air conditioning filters monthly, with a more thorough clean quarterly.

Outdoor air quality was also an issue, and most pollution was related to dust, traffic emissions “burning out” the available oxygen, and the lack of trees to replenish the oxygen consumed, he said.

“Dubai is generally always blanketed by a smog. This comes from the large amount of traffic in such a small place, and the fact we don’t have the luxury of a cross wind most days, nor much rain.

“Most days one can smell the air in Dubai, and it’s not a fresh smell.”

Places in the middle of the city, such as Shaikh Zayed Road, Deira, and Bur Dubai, where “there was hardly any air circulation”, were particularly affected, and it was “amazing” how many people suffered from hayfever.

However, because there were no official figures available about Dubai’s air quality, doctors and the public were left “in the dark” about how bad the air they were breathing was, he said.

Dr Johannes C van Dijk, General Practitioner at MediClinic, said in a press statement that allergies, sinusitis, hayfever and asthma were typical afflictions in the UAE, thanks to extreme temperatures and humidity, the continuous use of air conditioning, double glazed windows which prevented direct UV sun light penetration (a natural disinfectant), and frequent sand storms and surrounding construction dust.

Indoor air was two to five times more polluted than the outdoor air, contaminated from everyday use of products and materials, and dust mites and other indoor allergens were strong contributors to allergic airway disease, he added.

Minimising the use of chemical cleaning products, along with sanitising and removing dust from upholstery and furniture, was important to lower allergen levels, and UAE companies such as The Healthy Home could sanitise mattresses without the use of chemicals.