Here’s the Lowdown on Bad Indoor Air Quality, and What You Can Do About It
- November 18, 2014
The danger of outdoor air pollution is a frequent topic of conversation and a cause for concern, but bad indoor air quality in a home poses a much greater risk to the good health and well-being of the occupants. The average person spends 90 percent of his or her life inside where the air is two to five times more polluted than what’s outdoors.
Not only does outdoor pollution find its way indoors, but homes today are more tightly sealed than ever before, so its easier to trap an unhealthy mix of pollutants from an array of sources, including:
- Fumes containing carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from combustion appliances and heating equipment.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC) such as formaldehyde released from building materials, carpet and paint.
- Allergens including pollen, dust mites and pet dander.
- Harmful VOCs and other chemicals released during the use of cleaning and personal care products.
- Mold and mildew that thrive when warmth and humidity are present.
- A cocktail of chemicals and irritants from second-hand tobacco smoke.
The Adverse Effects of Bad Indoor Air Quality
When the air quality inside a home isn’t good, the occupants are vulnerable to a host of health-related issues including coughing, sore throats, itchy/watery eyes, nausea, fatigue, frequent headaches, shortness of breath and nasal congestion. Breathing in contaminated air on a daily basis can cause allergic reactions and chronic breathing problems such as bronchitis and asthma. Built-up fumes from fuel-burning equipment can put occupants at risk of deadly carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Children, the elderly and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions are more susceptible to the adverse reactions and illnesses that result from living in an environment with bad air.
How to Take a Pro-Active Approach to Improving Indoor Air Quality
If you’re concerned about the quality of the air in your living environment, there are a number of lifestyle changes and improvements that you can make to address the problem. The following tips can help you rid your home of indoor pollution and protect the health of everyone in the household:
- Increase air exchange with ventilation. Adding a mechanical ventilation system to your home can help get rid of pollution and bring in fresher air from outdoors year round. Less expensive alternatives are trickle vents for windows or doors that allow cross ventilation of a small amount of air even during the winter months.
- Keep fuel-combustion equipment maintained. Properly maintaining an HVAC system with a yearly inspection and cleaning not only increases energy efficiency and useful service life, it ensures safe operation and lowers the risk of incomplete combustion that can contribute dangerous fumes to bad indoor air quality. If you have a gas-fired water heater, wood stove or fireplace, or you use space heaters, they need regular inspections, too. Annual servicing of a gas range not only helps prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, it can keep nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in check.
- Avoid high humidity levels. When humidity is excessive in a warm home, mold and mildew can flourish. Proper ventilation is essential to remove excess moisture in the winter, especially in the bathrooms and kitchen. Operating an air conditioner in the hot, sticky summer can help keep high humidity levels in check, and remove water-soluble contaminants at the same time.
- Decrease harmful VOCs. If you’re renovating, opt for environmentally friendly materials that don’t contain formaldehyde. Choose green cleaning and personal care products to decrease the amount of unhealthy VOCs released. Since many common household products contain VOCs, make sure you store items such as furniture polishes, paint removers, pesticides, adhesives, oil-based paints and aerosol sprays where there’s adequate ventilation, and don’t keep them long-term.
- Reduce indoor allergens. Taking steps to reduce the allergen load inside your home can help anyone who’s prone to attacks. You can control dust mites in the home by maintaining a low humidity level, and by vacuuming, wet-dusting and using anti-allergen mattress covers and pillows. Washing bedding in hot water once a week can help, too. If you have pets, give them frequent baths and don’t allow them into the bedrooms to help keep pet dander out.
- Switch to a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Adding a HEPA filter to your HVAC system lets you remove 90 percent of particles 0.3 microns and larger from the circulating air. Remember to check the air filter regularly, and replace it as needed.
To learn more about what you can do to improve the bad indoor air quality in your Moore County, NC home, contact Comfort Services, Inc. today.