pesticides and chemicals in our rivers. But lurking inside our tightly sealed homes may lay a greater safety issue – indoor air pollutants, which can contribute to asthma attacks, allergies, headaches, or worse. To keep yourself safe and your air quality high, we’ve got a list of some of the most common indoor air pollutants and how to control them from coming in or staying in your home.
You may have heard of radon – an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that can seep up from the earth and into our homes. At low levels it’s not harmful, but at high levels it is of great concern as a carcinogen. In fact, it is the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco. You can control radon in your home by testing for it and making repairs to cracks or other problem areas in order to make sure it never enters your home. A good home ventilation system as part of your HVAC can also remove or dilute it.
Mold, fungi, bacteria, pollen, viruses, pet dander, and particles from dust mites and cockroaches and other organic contaminants have spores that are airborne and can cause health problems. According to the American Lung Association, biological polluants may cause infections, allergic reactions or trigger asthma attacks. If mold gets out of hand, it can lead to even bigger respiratory problems.
You can control many of the smaller biological pollutants with careful cleaning of bedding, floors and dust. Purifying your home air with UV lamps and electronic air purifiers (like the Carrier Infinity Air Cleaner) can help, too. Good ventilation and filtration is also the key to controlling moisture – which can lead to more growth in places like the bathroom, basements, and kitchen.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
VOCs are items like formaldehyde, asbestos, hexanal, octanal, and benzene, which can come from building materials and surface finishes, including paint and floor coverings. Even household cleaning products and air fresheners can contain these harmful chemicals. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, short-term to high levels of VOCs can lead to:
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Worsening of asthma symptoms
And long term, they can increase the risk of:
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Central Nervous System damage
Asbestos, found most often in roofing, siding, insulation, and flooring materials, can lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Limiting your exposure to VOCs is the best method of protection. The first line of defense, according to Keith Hill, manager, technical support, at Minnesota Air, is to make better purchase choices.
“Buy real wood instead of particle board furniture. Buy carpeting and pad with low VOCs. Limit cleaning solutions to natural or low VOC products,” says Keith.
Controlling them with a great ventilation system is also important, since household furnishings and cleaning chemicals are emitting many of the VOCs.
Ultrafine Airborne Particles
Ultrafine airbone particles are things like cigarette smoke, cooking smoke, combustion pollutants from fireplaces or heaters (carbon monoxide) and even some very small dust mite feces, bacteria, insecticides, and household dust where the spores are too small to trap with a mechanical filter.
To prevent these pollutants in your home’s air:
- Don’t smoke in the house, and especially around children, who are particularly susceptible to its harms.
- Get a carbon monoxide detector, and also make sure all “combustion appliances are installed and maintained by reliable professionals, and properly used,” according to the AMA.
- Control with ventilation, filtration, or even high efficiency filtration, to filter out the microscopic particles.
You hear it over and over again – home ventilation is the key to having good air quality. Air quality matters very much to the health of your home and the health of its inhabitants, so limit the indoor air pollutants and you can breathe easy.