The health detriments caused by outdoor air pollution are well known, but what poses a much more serious risk to your well-being is the air circulating inside your home. The levels of contaminants and toxins indoors can be up to five times higher than those outside. Plus, most people spend a lot more time inside than outside. Breathing polluted air on a daily basis can have severe repercussions, and the most susceptible are children, the elderly, and those with asthma, allergies or pre-existing health problems.
Poor Indoor Air Quality And Its Effects on Health
If the air quality is bad in your home, members of your household can suffer numerous adverse effects, including:
- Watering, itchy eyes
- Sore throats
- Nasal congestion
- Increased asthma attacks
- Chest congestion/coughing
- Upper respiratory infections
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
Serious illnesses can develop from long-term exposure to indoor pollution, including lung disease, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), heart disease and several forms of cancer.
What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?
People now spend nine-tenths of their lives indoors. Most of that time is spent inside increasingly well-sealed structures, which exposes them to stagnant air filled with an unhealthy cocktail of pollutants that come from various sources including:
- Fumes containing hazardous combustion by-products such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). The source can be a gas-fired furnace, kitchen range, water heater, clothes dryer, or a wood stove, fireplace or fuel-burning space heater.
- Second-hand tobacco smoke that can significantly worsen asthma in children as well as cause bronchitis, ear and respiratory tract infections, and pneumonia. Tobacco smoke’s toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals puts all non-smokers at greater risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.
- Off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from carpet, paint, furnishings and construction materials. Others are released from the gallons of synthetic chemicals found in products commonly used for cleaning, laundry, maintenance, crafts and hobbies, and even personal care.
- Allergens such as plant pollen that makes its way in from outdoors, animal dander from family pets, and microscopic dust mites that thrive in bedding and upholstered furniture.
- Radon, the colorless, odorless gas that’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Radon can infiltrate a dwelling through small cracks and crevices in areas where the structure contacts the ground it’s built on.
- Mold and mildew that proliferate in warm, moist environments.
Solutions That Improve Poor Indoor Air Quality
There are a number strategies that you can implement to improve the air quality
in your home. One is to ban the use of tobacco and prevent exposure to second-hand smoke’s 69 known carcinogenic compounds. Here are some other solutions that can make breathing easier for everyone in your household:
- Banish dust mites and animal dander. Bathe pets frequently and keep them out of the bedrooms to reduce dander accumulations. Replace carpeting with hard-surface flooring. Wet-dust and vacuum floors, area rugs, upholstered furniture and draperies often. Switch to impermeable mattress pads and pillows, and launder bedding in hot water weekly to control dust mites.
- Ventilate your living space. When you introduce fresher outdoor air through ventilation, the pollutants swirling in your indoor air become less concentrated. If adding a whole-house mechanical ventilation system isn’t in the budget, install filtered trickle ventilation screens on some of your windows.
- Run the air conditioner in summer. This gives you the two-fold benefit of keeping high humidity and mold growth in check, and expelling water-soluble pollutants along with excess moisture. During the winter, run the kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans to combat humidity and condensation.
- Use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filtration. Switching out your regular HVAC filter for one that can remove 90 percent of particles bigger than 0.3 microns is an effective way to reduce indoor pollution. This option likely will require modifications to your forced-air HVAC equipment.
- Schedule radon testing or get a do-it-yourself kit. Having your home tested can put your mind at ease about the risks associated with this known carcinogen. If high levels are detected, you can take appropriate steps to safeguard your family’s health.
- Service all fuel-burning equipment annually. This keeps these devices burning cleanly and safely, which can protect you from potentially dangerous combustion fumes.
- Avoid products that off-gas VOCs. Opt for green or low-VOC products whenever possible. If you must use household chemicals, keep them in a well-ventilated area, and buy smaller quantities to limit exposure.
To learn about other ways to improve poor indoor air quality in your Mt. Pleasant area home, contact us at Wood Air Conditioning & Plumbing, Inc.
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