Clean air is something we all need for a healthy home environment. The goal of this site is to provide you with information that will help you decide what steps you should take in order to reduce indoor pollution and provide a safe home environment for you and your family. Improving IAQ is not difficult and often only requires that you implement some very simple solutions.
Indoor Pollution Can Be More Serious Than Outdoor Pollution
You probably know that outdoor air pollution can affect your health and cause allergic reactions but did you know that indoor pollution can be even worse. We don’t have much control over what happens outside our homes but inside we have total control and there are many things that we can do to remove allergens and pollutants. Studies of human exposure to air pollution indicate that indoor levels of many indoor pollutants, can be 2-5 times higher (and often many times higher) than outdoor levels. These high levels of allergens and irritants are a concern because the average person can spends the majority of their time indoors.
The reason for the buildup of hazardous indoor pollution in today’s homes is a direct result the construction methods we use and our efforts to be energy efficient. As we strive to build homes more energy efficient, we also create environments susceptible to these indoor air quality problems. Tighter homes stop the natural air exchanges that used to occur naturally in our homes. The air in our homes is recycled many times over, often with fresh air entering only when we open doors or windows.
Causes Of Indoor Air Pollution
There are many things that contribute to poor air quality in homes:
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) from combustion sources such as oil, wood, kerosene, propane and natural gas.
- Insulation products which are designed to make our homes energy efficient can contribute to air quality problems.
- Furniture, carpeting and other household products manufactured with some pressed woods are often sources of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).
- Household cleaning products.
- Personal care products.
- Heating, air conditioning and humidification equipment.
- Improperly stored chemicals and pesticides.
- Tobacco smoke
- Dust mites and Cockroaches
- Pet dander
- Other sources of particulate matter
Possible Symptoms Of Indoor Air Quality Problems
It is often difficult to determine if the air inside your home is affecting your health. Symptoms can range from minor irritations like allergic reactions to much more severe health concerns including hypersensitivity and asthma. To complicate matters, effects may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later.
Common symptoms of exposure to poor indoor quality include:
- Itchy nose
- Scratchy throat
- Eye irritation
- Shortness of breath
Groups that may be more susceptible:
- Children may be more susceptible due to their young developing immune systems.
- Seniors because of their weaker immune systems.
- People with preexisting medical conditions.
Everyone reacts differently when exposed to indoor air pollutants and it is very difficult to say what concentrations or how much exposure time is enough to cause poor health and allergic reactions, or even if indoor pollution is the problem. Many indoor air pollution sources cannot be detected by our senses and the symptoms they produce can be vague, making it hard to attribute them to a specific cause. Some symptoms may take weeks or even months to produce symptoms.
Solutions to Indoor Air Pollution
- Control sources of pollution
- Dust control
- Indoor humidity
1) One of the most effective methods of controlling indoor air quality and eliminating allergens is to eliminate or control the sources. This includes things like ensuring insulation products are properly sealed and not open or exposed to your indoor environment. Ensure that all fuel burning appliances such as furnaces and cooking equipment are properly vented outside. You should also have natural gas, propane and oil furnaces serviced at the beginning or every heating season to ensure they are burning efficiently. A furnace that is not burning efficiently will also cost more to operate, so your investment will be recouped in reduced operating costs.
2) Ventilation has become a big part of maintaining good air quality. Buildings today are built so air tight that they require mechanical ventilation. This is accomplished with heat recovery ventilators or air exchangers. These units bring in fresh air from outside and exhaust stale building air to the outside. Most have air filters in them that filter the fresh air before it enters your home. There are other methods of mechanical ventilation to rid your home of pollutants which service specific areas of your home. These are attic ventilation, bathroom exhaust fans and kitchen exhaust fans.
3) Dust particles are common causes of allergic reactions and can be found in a wide range of particle sizes from less than 2 microns to over 10 microns. Particles smaller than 2.5 microns pose the greatest health risk because when inhaled they can penetrate deep into your lungs. Larger particles are more likely to settle in the upper respiratory tract. Dust control is accomplished through the use of air filtration products such as furnace filters and air conditioner filters, air purifiers and air cleaners. There are a broad range of products in this category. Many do a good job of filtering or cleaning the air but many are not much more than gadgets and gimmicks which make promises they can’t deliver.
4) The thing that makes the humidity level in your home important is the effect it has on dust and organic compounds. Dust mite populations increase when humidity levels are high. Larger populations of dust mites mean there will be more dust particles in the air. Keep dust mite populations under control and you reduce the amount of dust in your home. High humidity can lead to the growth of toxic mold, mildew and other biological contaminants. Low humidity, which is usually only a problem in winter, can cause nose bleeds and nasal passage discomfort. Ventilation, humidifiers and dehumidifiers are the most helpful methods of humidity control.