Improve Your Indoor Air Quality: 7 Pollutants to Watch For
Perhaps you haven’t spent much time thinking about how to improve your indoor air quality, but it’s important all the same. Poor indoor air quality can lead to numerous health problems. You may think your itchy eyes or coughing are just seasonal allergies, but it could be a sign of air pollutants inside your home that are impacting your family’s health.
The air quality experts at Entek can help you improve the indoor air quality of your home. Here are seven pollutants to watch out for and what to do if you suspect they’re lurking inside your home.
One of the most commonly found indoor contaminants in older buildings is asbestos, a mineral fiber. Because of its resistance to heat as well as its fiber strength, asbestos was once used in a variety of building materials. In fact, if you move into an older building, you may receive a notice that asbestos was once used in the building paint, for instance.
When disturbed, by cutting or remodeling, asbestos materials can be released into the air. Prolonged exposure could cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, or lung disease. If you suspect an asbestos problem, you should contact an accredited asbestos professional for its repair or removal.
2. Indoor Particulate Matter
Indoor particulate matter is a combination of solid and/or liquid particles that are suspended in the air. Regular activities such as cooking, candle burning, cigarette smoking, and use of fireplaces or unvented heat sources can cause this matter to form. Some indoor particulate matter originates outside and can be tracked inside your home. Certain types are small enough to be inhaled and can cause major health problems.
To reduce the amount of indoor particulate matter in your home, you should vent fuel-fired combustion appliances to the outdoors, use exhaust fans when cooking, regularly change your HVAC filters, and call your local HVAC technician to inspect and clean your central heating system on an annual basis.
3. Biological Pollutants
Biological pollutants basically include all the common, everyday pollutants that build up in our homes, like dust, dander, mites, and pollen. Biological pollutants can cause a host of health problems, such as watery eyes, coughing and sneezing, and shortness of breath.
To improve your indoor air quality and protect yourself from biological pollutants, control the relative humidity level of your home. Typically, a relative humidity of 30 to 50 percent is recommended. You should also keep your house clean and free of dust, maintain your HVAC equipment with regular maintenance, and be sure to keep your home well-ventilated.
Cigarette smoking can cause indoor particulate matter to form, but it can also be an indoor pollutant of its own. Secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, lung cancer, more frequent and severe asthma attacks, and even sudden infant death syndrome.
To counter this risk, try to refrain from smoking indoors. If you are going to smoke indoors, open a window or patio door and try to vent the smoke outside. This can help reduce the amount of secondhand smoke in your home, though it won’t eliminate it entirely.
5. Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted from a number of household products. Pesticides, cleaners and disinfectants, and even dry-cleaned clothing can all be sources of VOCs. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue are just a few of the common symptoms.
In order to reduce exposure to VOCs, closely follow all safety precautions when using household products known to emit VOCs. You should also make sure your home is properly ventilated when using these products.
Formaldehyde is one of the more common types of VOCs. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas, but unlike some other gases, it has a strong odor that makes it fairly easy to detect. It is found in many types of building materials, particularly pressed-wood products. Formaldehyde causes irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. At high concentrations, it can also cause some types of cancer.
To reduce your risk, purchase composite wood products that are typically better regulated than other types of products. Since the release of formaldehyde is accelerated by heat, be sure to also run your air conditioner and use a dehumidifier.
6. Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is often known as the silent killer because it’s virtually undetectable. It cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled. High concentrations of carbon monoxide can be fatal. Lower concentrations can cause fatigue in healthy individuals or chest pain in people with heart disease. Sources of carbon monoxide include gas stoves, leaking chimneys and furnaces, and tobacco smoke.
Since carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas, it’s important that you install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. This will alert you to the threat of CO just as a smoke alarm would alert you to the threat of a fire. Also, remember to have an HVAC technician clean and inspect your central heating system regularly.
Radon is a radioactive gas. Like carbon monoxide, you can’t see it, smell it, or easily detect it. This makes radon all the more dangerous because, like carbon monoxide, you may be completely unaware that it’s lurking in your home.
Radon forms from the natural breakdown of uranium in rock, water, and soil. Radon can work its way into any type of building and at high levels and can cause lung cancer. In fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
The good news is that it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to test your home for radon. Some state health departments will mail you a kit free of charge. Otherwise, you can find one available for purchase at most hardware stores. Radon tests kits are typically priced at $15 to $25.
Improving your indoor air quality could improve your family’s overall health. If you want more tips on managing indoor air pollutants, give the team at Entek a call. We want to help you and your family breathe easier.