Indoor Air Quality
Indoor Air Quality?
What Is Affecting The
Indoor Air Quality In My Home?
How do I Tell If my Indoor Air
Quality Needs To Be Improved?
How I Do To Prevent
Poor Indoor Air Quality?
How Do I To Improve
Poor Indoor Air Quality?
Why Should I Be Concerned About Indoor Air Quality?
Being closed up tight in the house with the thing that makes you sick, the thing you are trying to avoid like the plague - allergens - can make life hard. This winter we will all be trying to keep the heat in and the cold out to save money on the heating bill. Unfortunately, that means we are hunkering down with dust mites, pets, mold, fumes, and gases. It is well known that the air in our homes can be dramatically more polluted than outside air. However, we can weatherize and still maintain a healthy level of indoor air quality by minimizing the airborne particulates in our homes.There are many sources of pollution inside the home that can cause or exacerbate health problems. Fine particles (less than 2.5 microns in diameter) are of most concern. Referred to and respirable, they are inhaled and can penetrate and remain deep in the lungs. According to the EPA, indoor air quality is often 2 to 5 times worse than outdoor air quality. So, considering that Americans average 90% of the 24-hour day indoors, the quality of the indoor air is important.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates the following health effects can be a result of poor indoor air quality: increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing, for example;
- decreased lung function;
- aggravated asthma;
- development of chronic bronchitis;
- irregular heartbeat;
- nonfatal heart attacks; and
- premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
What Is Affecting The Indoor Air Quality In My Home?
Pollutants can infiltrate your home in many ways, but indoor air quality is not just a matter of contaminants from outdoors being trapped indoors.
Pollen, pet dander, tobacco smoke particles, and dust mite allergens are just a few of the potentially harmful contaminants that may be in your indoor air. Things like floating dust and the various ingredients of dust such as tiny airborne spores from mould and mildew; carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and various other byproducts of combustion gases from furnaces, gas stoves and even candles. Tiny particles of soot from cooking, and off-gassing of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOC's) from some types of plywood and particle board from cabinetry as well as paints, glues, solvents and some wall-to-wall carpeting.
The EPA lists volatile organic compounds that have adverse health effects, including the following:
- paints and lacquers
- paint strippers
- cleaning supplies
- building materials and furnishings
- office equipment such as copiers and printers
- correction fluids and carbonless copy paper
- graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives
- permanent markers and photographic solutions.
In addition, organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in common products found in your home such as paints, varnishes, and waxes as well as many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products. Fuels are also made up of organic chemicals. All of these products may release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some extent, when they are stored.
How Can I Tell If The Indoor Air Quality In My Home Needs To Be Improved?There is no standard by which you can grade your indoor air quality, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that an acceptable pollution level in your home may depend on the following:
- whether or not members of your family have chronic illnesses - particularly respiratory or illnesses aggravated by pollutants;
- whether there are children or elderly family members who may have a higher level of sensitivity to the effects of pollutants;
- whether products or materials used in the home emit pollutants and how often they are used;
- and the effectiveness of your home ventilation system and the distribution of fresh air throughout the home.
- What health complaints have been experienced by you or your family members?
- Are complaints reported by more than one member of your family?
- When were these complaints first noticed?
- Can you associate these complaints with certain events or activities, such as moving to a new house, renovating, or adding new furnishings, carpeting or draperies?
- Do the health complaints occur seasonally, at a particular time of the day, or when a family member is in a particular part of the home?
- How often do the complaints occur and how long do they last?
- Are the complaints or reactions reduced when you are away from the home? Do they return when you return home?
- Do visitors have the similar reactions or health complaints?
- Are the complaints or reactions less severe when you ventilate the home?
There are some signs to look for that would be unhealthy in any home. If you have inadequate ventilation, you may notice stuffy air, moisture condensation on cold surfaces such as windows, or mold and mildew growth.
What Can I Do To Prevent Poor Indoor Air Quality?
- Do not allow smoking in the house.
- Perform a visual inspection of your roof from the outside and from the attic to catch any small leaks before they can cause big water damage.
- Check around pipes in the basement or under sinks for any signs of water leakage.
- Check your windows for condensation that may cause mold on window frames and sills.
- Avoid using wood-burning stoves and fireplaces; Toxins and particles are released indoors and outdoors. If you must have a fire in your fireplace, burn only seasoned hard wood. Do not use any artificial substitutes.
- Have furnaces and air conditioning units inspected and serviced regularly, and replace filters as needed (usually every 3 months). Consider upgrading your air filtration system
- Check the ingredients on cleaning supplies and choose those that are vegetable-based or have a very low chemical content.
- Wash bedding in hot water every 2 weeks to eliminate dust mite allergen build-up.
- Using a low-pile or less allergen-attracting carpet and pad, installing carpeting by tacking rather than using glue, choosing natural fiber carpets available such as jute, sisal and wool, or using alternate flooring made from sustainable harvested wood, bamboo or stained concrete can reduce allergens in your home.
- Use low-VOC and low-toxic interior paints and finishes to reduce toxins ordinarily associated with other paints.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector.
- Never store fuel in a garage or shed connected to your home.
- Choose pump sprayers instead of aerosol cans.
What Can I Do To Improve Poor Indoor Air Quality?
Using an efficient air cleaner is a good first step to take in improving indoor air quality. Since the job of an air cleaner is to remove particles from the air, this can greatly reduce many contaminants. Good cleaning practices such as dusting and vacuuming often can also help.
The effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on the following factors:
- How well it collects pollutants from the air (Measured by MERV - Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value);
- How much air it draws through the cleaning or filtering element (cubic feet per minute) and
- Whether it removes particles, gases or both. - The Lennox PureAir addresses all three categories of air contaminants
The American Lung Association states that "HEPA filters are the most efficient mechanical filters for removing small particles which can be breathed deep into the lungs. The highest efficiency air cleaners, widely available today, remove 0.3 micron (1 micron = 1 millionth of a meter) sized particles at a minimum of 99.97% efficiency."
To minimize particles that contribute to poor indoor air quality, clean often and effectively. An electrostatic or damp cloth are best for keeping dust from becoming airborne again. Dusting tools designed for particular jobs can make the task easier. In addition, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter or an allergen bag can help improve indoor air quality because allergen and other particles are contained in the vacuum instead of being expelled back into the room through the exhaust. in addition, a high MERV rated furnace filter can also help capture particles from the air.
Tools For Improving Indoor Air Quality
Weatherizing your home is important to your comfort and pocketbook, but it is also important to consider what your indoor air might be doing to your health. As you take measures to seal your home against the cold such as caulking and installing storm doors and better windows, also take measures to reduce the particles and other pollutants that are being trapped indoors by controlling the sources of indoor pollutants, using the tools below, and being aware of the quality of the air you are breathing in your home.
- Install a high grade air filter
- Ensure adequate ventilation which can reduce concentrations of VOC's and particulate pollutants. Heat Recovery Ventilators can perform this function, while retaining up to 95% of the heat in your home, reducing energy costs, while maintaining higher levels of indoor air quality
- identify and eliminate the source of pollutants, like damp areas in the home, and storing chemicals in an area where they cannot enter your home.
- Regular Duct Cleaning can ensure contaminants do not build up in your ductwork, just to be redistributed through your home.
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