Are you worried about the air you breathe? Don’t think you’re safe just because you’re inside. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the air in homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air.
When you hear about bad air quality you probably think about a city with an overcast of smog, with busy buses and factories polluting the air around your most common destinations. The truth is, indoor air pollution is another problem itself. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside may be up to five times more polluted than the air outside.
Indoor air pollution can cause big health problems. People who may be exposed to indoor air pollutants for longer periods are often those most at risk to the effects of indoor air pollution. This includes children, older adults, and people with chronic illnesses.
What Is Indoor Air Pollution?
Most indoor air pollution comes from sources that release gases or particles into the air. Things like building materials and air fresheners give off pollution continuously. Other sources like tobacco smoke and wood-burning stoves also cause indoor pollution. Although some indoor air pollutants have been around for years, they often were weakened by outdoor air seeping into the home. Today’s more energy-efficient homes don’t allow as much outdoor air to enter.
How Do Contaminants Get Inside Your Home?
Indoor air can be filled with multiple pollutants including pollen, dust, dander, cleaning solvents, formaldehyde, fungi, viruses, and much more. These tiny particles, some too small to see, make their way into your home’s air and into your lungs. Particles like dirt, dust, and pollen enter your home through open windows, doors, cracks, and chimneys.
Bacteria and mold easily find their way into your home and constantly reproduce to stay alive. Pets are a common allergen source that causes bad indoor air quality from of their dander, hair and saliva. Pet dander is made up of microscopic particles that shed from the animal’s body. Other sources of contaminants include perfume, cleaning supplies, paints, and cooking fumes. These are all human induced contaminants that can be reduced by eliminating the source.
A common problem, especially in newer homes is that they are tightly sealed to conserve energy. This causes a lack of airflow so fresh air cannot make its way inside. Without proper ventilation, indoor air cannot circulate and becomes stale and stagnant. This means all of the contaminants floating around indoors have no way to escape. This causes allergic reactions, discomfort, and other health concerns.
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We’ve recently discussed high humidity in the home, and you can find that article, here. Too much moisture in the air creates an issue in indoor air quality. High humidity allows dust mites, mold, mildew, viruses and bacteria to breed. These tiny contaminants are released into the air and then into your lungs.
What Do We Do Now?
Now that you have become more informed about indoor air quality, it’s time to take action to get rid of the problem.
- Schedule an indoor air quality test
- Keep your furnace, air conditioner, and humidifier well maintained. Keep humidity within 30%-60%
- Run your dryer in the evenings or first thing in the morning
- Use nontoxic paints, cleaning supplies and other household products when possible
- Use furnishings that emit the smallest amount of chemical vapors
- Do not allow smoking inside your home and make sure all gas appliances are properly vented
- Wash bedding frequently to rid of dirt, dust, and other particles
- Bathe pets and wash their bedding materials often
- Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and the bathroom
- Place an open box of baking soda on a surface to rid a room of smells
It may be tempting to attribute a recent allergy episode to a change in seasons or weather patterns, but it could likely be a sensitive reaction to the contaminants in your indoor environment.
Many people experience allergies in response to a range of materials, and in fact, concentrations of pollen, dust and other irritants can be more concentrated in enclosed locations than they are in outdoor spaces. Potential symptoms include coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, headaches, bloody noses and congestion.
If you are experiencing any of these issues, pay careful attention to when the symptoms arrive and when they disappear. If you start to experience issues shortly after you walk into your office or home and those same symptoms disappear shortly after you leave, then you are likely dealing with poor air quality within that space.
If you have noted a few of the above signs, then it is likely time to contact an expert. They will be able to run some tests and inspect your home to discover the severity of the problem. Not only will they be able to tell you the source of the problem, but also offer some suggestions on what you can do to improve your indoor air quality. Once the source has been identified, you will want to form a plan of action to best approach and solve the problem.
If you’re in South Florida, contact our Sarasota air quality team for a full Home Energy & Efficiency Audit. We’ll be able to help you get to the bottom of these symptoms, and provide solutions for you and your family.
There are an endless number of sources that may be causing air pollution in your home. Ultimately, an expert can help you find the best route to the solution.