Indoor Air Quality – What is Lurking in the Air in Your Home?
Do you remember when the local news carried stories about air quality or smog alerts warning of dangerous pollution? Little did we know that by staying safe indoors we weren’t escaping the pollutants; in fact we may have been exposing ourselves to more concentrated levels.
Today’s homes are built more energy efficient and air tight. An air tight home may do very well to keep hot or cold air out of the house; but it’s also very efficient at allowing toxins to build up. Did you know that the indoor air quality of your home can be between 10 and 20-times worse than that of the outdoors?
A solution as simple as an air cleaner may help remove some of the pollutants; it doesn’t get the root cause of why the pollutants exist. Most of the toxins in your home are there as a result of the products you purchase or the chemicals you use to clean. Here’s what you need to know.
Indoor air quality of your home can be between 10 and 20-times worse than that of the outdoors.
What Indoor Pollutants are in Your Home?
|Pollutant||Health Impact||How Brought In Your Home|
|Formaldehyde||The National Toxicology Program has deemed Formaldehyde a carcinogen.||Historically used in spray and wick deodorizers. It’s also an ingredient used in the adhesives holding pressed wood furniture together.|
|Benzene||A volatile organic compound known to cause cancer and damage DNA.||Found in cigarette smoke, furnishings, PVC, plywood, solvents, paints, caulking, mosquito repellents, printing, adhesives and detergents.|
|Carbon Monoxide||Fatigue, chest pains, impaired vision, and potentially fatal at high levels.||Internal combustion sources such as fuel burning stoves, attached garages, and an improperly vented furnace.|
|Trichloroethylene (TCE)||Affects nervous system, liver, kidneys, reproductive system, and immune system.||Used as a degreasing agent, adhesives, wood finishes, lubricants, and cleaners.|
|Lead||Children are most susceptible an may experience mental impairments, or nervous system and kidney problems.||Old Lead-based paints and old children’s toys.|
|Polybrominated Flame Retardants (PFRs)||Behavioral effects, endocrine disruption, and potential some forms of cancer.||Appliances, building materials, virtually all household items designed to be flame resistant (i.e. your pillow).|
|Radon||Lung cancer.||Radon leaches into the home through concrete slab floors, basement foundations, and water drainage systems.|
|Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)||Range from respiratory irritation to cancers.||VOCs include home and office cleaning supplies, paints, paint strippers, pesticides, office furnishings, and office equipment such as printers.|
|Pet Dander||Respiratory distress.||Homes with pets and homes in communities with high pet populations.|
|Dust Mites||May trigger asthma.||Naturally found in mattresses, pillows, carpets, furniture, clothes, and stuffed toys.|
|Mold||Mold can trigger acute responses from people with asthma or respiratory problem.||Mold comes from damp areas that do not have proper ventilation, insulation, or drainage.|
|Pollen||May trigger seasonal allergies, or asthma in more severe cases.||Trees, flowers, and grass all produce pollen. This pollen enters through your windows, doors, and ventilation.|
|Cigarette or Tobacco Smoke||Middle ear infection, bronchitis, pneumonia, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, and several forms of cancer.||We bring this into our home when we make a decision to smoke.|
Health Affects From Indoor Pollution and Poor Indoor Air Quality.
According to the Government’s Indoor Environments Division (IED), health effects can take place due poor indoor air quality and the existence of these indoor pollutants.
Potential effects may show up after a single exposure as well as repeated exposures. Immediate effects from poor indoor air quality may include irritation (eyes, nose, and throat), headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. These kind of problems are typically short-term and treatable. The immediate thing to do is to remove a person from exposure if experiencing any of these problems. Someone exposed to indoor pollutants may also experience a flare up to diseases such as asthma.
The likelihood of immediate reactions to indoor air pollutants depends on several factors. Age and preexisting medical conditions are two important influences. In other cases, whether a person reacts to a pollutant depends on individual sensitivity, which varies tremendously from person to person. Some people can become sensitized to biological pollutants after repeated exposures, and it appears that some people can become sensitized to chemical pollutants as well.
How do you Improve Indoor Air Quality and Combat These Pollutants?
There are a number of ways to combat indoor air pollution and increase the quality of the air you breathe inside. Here are a few easy steps in improve your indoor air quality.
- Ventilate out your home. This is an easy first step. When the weather and temperature allow, open those windows and move some fresh air throughout your home.
- Keep your air filters clean on your HVAC unit. Replace them on the recommended time frames or earlier if you notice the filters are dirty.
- Use healthy cleaning supplies. Reduce the amount of toxins you release in your home in an effort to clean it or make it smell better. Watch out for cleaners that include fragrances, air fresheners, and other toxic cleaners.
- Stop using air freshening products. That “fresh” odor they emit is not natural and includes several of the toxins listed above.
- Vacuum your home. Be sure you use a vacuum with a HEPA certified filter and keep those floors clean. Use a vacuum with good suction and one that has attachments so you can reach the corners. Don’t forget about vacuuming your furniture including your beds while the sheets are being cleaned.
- Don’t burn paraffin or scented candles. Although they smell wonderful, paraffin candles are made from petroleum and release Benzene and other toxins in the air. Soy candles and beeswax candles are better alternatives.
- Introduce air cleaning plants into your home. NASA conducted a study that found indoor plants can combat many common indoor air pollutants. A good rule of thumb is use about 1 plant for every 100 square foot. So, a 2000 square foot home will need 20 plants.
We hope these tips help your create a safer sanctuary for you and your family. Where you start is up to you – don’t be intimidated by the journey. What is most important is that you take that next step.