How much time do you spend inside your home or other buildings?
For most people, it’s quite a bit of time, particularly for those living in colder climates!
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that in the United States, people spend 90% of their time on average indoors.
As a result, indoor air pollution may be a greater risk to people’s health than outdoor air pollution.
Indoor air pollutants can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, and may cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.
Long-term exposure to certain indoor air pollutants may also lead to respiratory diseases, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Individuals with existing health conditions such as asthma or those who experience allergies may be particularly sensitive to indoor air pollution.
Indoor air pollutants predominantly originate from inside a house or building.
Although indoor air pollutants can be minimized, many homes contain more than one source and the accumulation of these pollutants can negatively affect our health and contribute to unhealthy air quality.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas produced during combustion reactions.
CO is emitted from burning cigarettes, fireplaces, wood and gas stoves, furnaces, gas water heaters, cars, barbecues, and other commonly used household items.
CO is harmful to health, and exposure to low concentrations can cause dizziness, headaches, and chest pain.
Biological contaminants are microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that infiltrate indoor environments.
Examples include animal dander, cat saliva, dust mites, pollen, mold, and mildew.
These contaminants can aggravate asthma symptoms and cause sneezing, coughing, dizziness, and fever.
Unhealthy air quality can be caused by particles or gases that are released from various sources (e.g., building materials, cleaning supplies, furniture, mold).
Poor ventilation, humidity levels, as well as the age and maintenance level of the source of air pollution also influence indoor air quality.
Ventilation refers to the movement of air in and out of a building and is important to maintaining good indoor air quality.
There are two different types of ventilation: natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation.
Natural ventilation occurs when air moves inside and outside through vents or cracks in walls, floors, open windows, doors, or chimneys, for example.
Mechanical ventilation is created and includes air flow via air ducts, indoor and outdoor fans, heat recovery ventilators (HRVs), and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs).
The most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to reduce or remove the source of the air pollutant.
Ensuring proper ventilation and utilizing air cleaners also help improve indoor air quality.
Improving indoor air quality can often be straightforward and relatively inexpensive.
Ensuring proper ventilation and controlling the source of air pollutants by removing or reducing them can help improve air quality.
Air cleaners can help reduce indoor air pollution, and indoor air quality monitors can help measure particulate matter and VOC levels.
Make sure to test your home for radon and always have a working CO monitor.
When needed, consider hiring a professional for certain types of testing or for the removal of contaminants.