Indoor air pollution is a major concern for our health and well-being. According to the World Health Organization, almost the entire population (9 out of 10 people) breathes air containing high levels of pollutants. But how can this be? Unfortunately, many homeowners are unaware of the main contributors to indoor air pollution. Staying educated about these culprits can help you take steps to reduce the impact of indoor air pollution on your health even when you’re indoors.
Everyday household products such as cleaning supplies, personal care products, and even home furnishings contain chemicals that can contaminate the air inside our homes. These chemicals are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can be found in various products like:
- Paints and varnishes
- Air fresheners
- Furniture polish
- Cleaners and disinfectants
- Perfumes and deodorants
When these products are used, they release VOCs into the air that can cause short-term health effects like headaches, nausea, and eye irritation. Long-term exposure to VOCs has been linked to more serious health issues like liver and kidney damage, as well as cancer. This is especially true of certain VOCs like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.
The best way to reduce the impact of indoor chemicals is by opting for natural or organic products whenever possible and properly ventilating your home while using any chemical-based products. Using products according to their instructions can also help minimize exposure. Additionally, ensuring your HVAC system is regularly maintained can help reduce the circulation of indoor chemicals and other pollutants throughout your home. High-quality HVAC filters can also help trap these pollutants before they enter your living space.
While high humidity levels in and of themselves are not considered pollutants, they can certainly lead to the growth of mold and mildew. These fungi thrive in damp environments and reproduce by releasing spores into the air. When we breathe in these spores, it can cause a variety of respiratory issues and allergies.
Moisture can also lead to what is known as “off-gassing,” which is the release of chemicals from damp building materials. This can happen with new homes or renovations, as well as in areas with high humidity levels. To combat this issue, it’s important to properly ventilate your home and allow for proper drying time after any water damage.
Adequate ventilation can also help prevent pollutant levels from accumulating. To properly ventilate your home, it’s important to have exhaust fans in high moisture areas such as the bathroom and kitchen. Running your AC year-round can also help with reducing humidity levels, even during colder months.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals and toxins, many of which are known carcinogens. We’ve already mentioned benzene, which is, unfortunately, a known carcinogen, and readily found in indoor smoke from tobacco products. When you smoke indoors, chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide accumulate in the air and can have serious health consequences for both smokers and non-smokers.
The best solution to this contributor is to simply not smoke indoors. If you or someone in your household does smoke, it’s important to have proper ventilation and air filters in place to help reduce the impact of indoor smoking on air quality. Most HVAC systems have air filters that can help catch some of the toxins, but you can always ask for a specialized air filter to help remove even more pollutants.
Pet Dander and Allergens
Our furry friends may bring joy to our lives, but they can also be major contributors to indoor air pollution. Pets shed fur and dander (dead skin cells) which can accumulate in the air and cause allergies and respiratory issues. If you find yourself constantly sneezing or experiencing allergy symptoms, like itchy eyes or a runny nose, pet dander may be the culprit.
Additionally, animal droppings from pests like rodents, cockroaches, and other insects can also contribute to indoor air pollution. These are known as biological pollutants and, according to the EPA, can still contribute to indoor air quality. Proper pest control measures should be taken to reduce the impact of these allergens on your home’s air quality.
To reduce the impact of pet dander and allergens, it’s important to regularly groom your pets and vacuum your floors and furniture. Be wary of animal dander even if you don’t have pets, as it can be carried in on clothing and shoes from other homes or public spaces. Having an HVAC system with an air purifier with a HEPA filter can also help remove any particles from the air.
Gas stoves, fireplaces, and other fuel-burning appliances can release harmful pollutants into the air inside your home. Carbon monoxide is a common byproduct of these appliances and can cause serious health issues, from confusion, dizziness, and even death, when inhaled. While a functioning carbon monoxide detector can greatly reduce the risk of CO poisoning, it’s important to have your fuel-burning appliances regularly inspected and properly ventilated to ensure proper functioning and reduce your risk.
It isn’t just gas fireplaces and cooktops that are an issue, however. Poorly fitted gas furnaces, boilers, and even unvented kerosene or gas space heaters can also release harmful pollutants into the air. Any worn furnaces or boilers should be replaced or repaired as soon as possible to prevent further issues.
Whether you own a newer or older home, the building materials can greatly impact your indoor air quality. Asbestos, for example, was once a commonly used insulation material but is now known to cause serious health issues, including a certain cancer called mesothelioma, when inhaled. Other possibly toxic building materials you might find around your home include:
- Lead-based paint
- Pressed-wood products
Exposure to these materials can cause a variety of health problems from respiratory issues to cancers. If you suspect any of these materials in your home, it’s important to have them properly removed and replaced with non-toxic alternatives. Asbestos, for instance, can now be replaced with fiberglass insulation, and lead-based paint can be safely removed and replaced with non-toxic options. Air quality testing can also help identify any potential sources of indoor air pollutants and guide you in the right direction for remediation.
Protect Your Home and Health
As you can see, there are many contributors to indoor air pollution that we may not even realize. By staying informed and taking steps to reduce the impact of these pollutants, you can help keep your home and family healthy.
At A/C Doctors, we offer state-of-the-art indoor air quality services, including indoor air quality testing, UV light installation, whole-house air purifiers, and more to help improve the air quality in your home. Our team also offers top-tier HVAC services in Gilbert, AZ, including heating and cooling services, plumbing, ductwork, and commercial HVAC services just to name a few! Our goal is to help you breathe easier and enjoy a healthy, comfortable home. Contact us today to learn more about our IAQ services and how we can help improve your indoor air quality for good!