When we think of polluted air our minds go to big factory smoke and polluted cities, but we don’t think that indoor air can be just as harmful and even worse. Numerous studies performed by EPA have found that indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks to public health. Health effects can show up through allergies or asthma, while other diseases like heart disease or cancer can show after many years. The EPA has found 13 common indoor air pollutants and it’s important to be aware of what they are and steps to have a cleaner indoor air quality in your home.
You’ll find asbestos in mineral fibers that occur in rock and soil. Its strength and heat resistance have been used for materials like insulation, roofing shingles, fire-retardant, and more. Exposure to asbestos can increase your risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. If they’re removed improperly they can release asbestos in the air inside the home and endanger people living inside. There’s now existing bans on manufacture and distribution of asbestos materials, but older homes may still have them. It’s important to have a professional remove them safely so it won’t endanger you or your family.
2. Biological Pollutants
Biological pollutants are contaminants like bacteria, viruses, pet dander, dust, and pollen. They are often found in homes that have higher humidity, mold, household pets, indoor plants, and more. Allergies are one of the biggest things it can cause and can make you very sensitive to certain allergens over time. As well as being a breeding ground for mold and mildew if there’s excessive moisture. Ways to reduce it are having good ventilation and moisture control. Cleaning the house is important and especially in areas that can have these contaminants like carpets and furnishings.
3. Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a odorless and colorless gas that is found in fumes from fuel that is burned. They can be found from stoves, grills, fireplaces, furnaces, tobacco smoke, and more. It’s more of a threat indoors since it’s in an enclosed space compared to outdoor environments. With a possible leak or high exposure, it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning that can cause headaches, nausea, unconsciousness, and even death. To prevent carbon monoxide exposure a good idea is to have a CO detector in your home that will alarm if there’s high levels of CO. As well as having your heating and other appliances maintained by a professional HVAC technician every year.
Cooking or heating a home using wood or charcoal can be a cause of poor indoor air quality. Since it’s not common in the U.S. to use these methods to cook or heat, more than 40% of the world population still does. The fumes and smoke with poor ventilation lead to heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. Evidence has also been found that pregnant women exposed to these pollutants can have an increased risk of stillbirth, low birth weight, and decreased lung function. Replacing these open fire cooking or heating with modern stoves and fuels will reduce the exposure to harmful air pollutants.
Formaldehyde is a chemical that is used in building materials and household products like resin on wood products, paints, glues, pesticide, and cosmetic preservatives. Small exposure to it can cause eye, nose, skin and throat irritation; while long exposure can cause certain types of cancers. To reduce exposure, ventilate your home to lower the concentration of formaldehyde. As well as controlling the heat and humidity since formaldehyde can be released with increased air temperature and humidity.
It’s recognized that lead is a harmful environmental pollutant, especially toward children who can absorb lead more than adults. Lead can be found in lead-based paints and is the most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today. Improper removal like dry scraping or sanding can lead to high concentrations of lead particles that become airborne. High levels of lead can cause issues with cardiovascular, nervous and reproductive systems. Best way to remove lead from your home is to hire a professional to get the job done safely.
7. Nitrogen Dioxide
Nitrogen Dioxide is a toxic gas that comes from fuel burned like in gas stoves, tobacco smoke, kerosene heaters, and vented appliances that weren’t installed properly. It can be an irritant to your nose, throat, and eyes; while long-term exposure can lead to lung injury and chronic bronchitis. Best way to reduce nitrogen dioxide exposure is having properly vented sources that can vent it to the outdoors. As well as having a trained HVAC technician to tune up your central heating and repair any leaks found.
Issues with insects and pests using pesticide will help control or kill them, but it can be inherently toxic. A survey done found that 75% of U.S. households used at least one pesticide product indoors the past year. Pesticide is generally helpful to kill insects like ants or roaches, and even bigger problems like rodents. Exposure to it can be found in homes from contaminated soil that is tracked in from the outside, surfaces that collect and release pesticide, and stored containers of pesticide. With how common it’s used, exposure to it can cause short-term and long-term effects. Exposure can cause eye, throat, and nose irritation. While long-term, it will increase your risk of cancer and can cause damage to the kidney and central nervous system. To reduce exposure it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and only apply in recommended quantities. Even using non-chemical methods of pest control can help reduce any exposure.
Radon is a natural radioactive gas that comes from uranium in soil or rock that breaks down to form radium. They can enter buildings through cracks in the house, basement floors, foundations, and other openings. When radon does get trapped indoors it can be dangerous for your health. It’s found that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and is greatly enhanced if you’re a smoker. To test radon in your home is using a radon test kit that will measure the level in your home. For ways to protect yourself from radon is having a radon mitigation system installed, where it collects radon gas underneath your home’s foundation and vent it outside your home. Other ways like ventilating your home by opening windows and vents will increase the ventilation in the air and reduce radon levels.
10. Indoor Particulate Matter
A complex mixture of solid particles in the air is called a particulate matter that can vary in size, composition and shape. Some can be large enough to see with the human eye like sand, dust, dirt. While some are small enough to be only seen with a microscope. These particles indoors can include outdoor particles as well like sand from the beach or debris in construction sites. Indoor particulate matter can be found though from cooking, combustion activities (candles burning, use of fireplaces, cigarette smoke), indoor dust, cleaning solutions, and more. Exposure to these particles can lead to health issues in both your heart and lungs. Besides irritation from your eyes, throat and nose, prolonged effects can lead to heart attacks and lung disease. The best way to reduce indoor particulate matter is to reduce the source of where it’s coming from. Combustion activities like lighting candles should be reduced or stopped. As well as controlling the cooking and cleaning by ventilating the particles are able to escape outside inside of being trapped indoors.
11. Secondhand Smoke/Environmental Tobacco Smoke
Secondhand smoking, also known as passive smoking, comes from tobacco products like cigarettes or cigars being smoked by the active smoker and others around inhaling the smoke. It’s found that secondhand smoking is a Group A carcinogen that contains 7,000 substances. Being around secondhand smoke long term can lead to heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. Best way to reduce secondhand smoke is prohibiting smoking indoors since it’ll reduce the exposure to it much higher. Having ventilation and filtration can reduce it but not fully remove the smoke.
12. Volatile Organic Compounds
Gases emitted from certain solids or liquids is a volatile organic compound that comes from household products like paints, aerosol sprays, air fresheners, dry-cleaned clothing, pesticides, and more. These chemicals in the air can have short and long term effects that include eye, nose, and throat irritation, liver damage, and kidney damage. The steps to reduce exposure is increasing ventilation when these products are being used and following instructions, some products may ask to be used outdoors. Throw away any old or unneeded chemicals safely since the gases can leak from the closed containers. For any products you still want to keep, make sure they’re stored in a well-ventilated area and safely out of reach of children.
13. Wood Smoke
When wood and other organic matter burn a mixture of gases and fire creates smoke. Some still use wood stoves to cook and provide warmth, but they can cause health issues if used indoors. The many fine particles from the wood smoke can enter your lungs and cause pneumonia, asthma, and other respiratory diseases. As well as aggravate any chronic issues like heart and lung disease and are linked to premature deaths. To avoid these issues it’s important to change your wood stove to a newer modern stove that is safer for your home. Replacing it will help the health of your family and improve the indoor air quality.
Understanding and managing indoor air pollution is important for the health of your and your family. For any professional experience our team at Omni Air HVAC can help with all of your indoor air quality needs. We care for the comfort and air quality of your home and will help with any issues or questions you may have. Call us today for all of your indoor air quality needs!