Every day when you walk through the door, you notice something strange: your nose starts to run, your throat feels a little scratchy, and it's a bit hard to breathe. You probably blame it on allergies, but the truth could be much more concerning: poor indoor air quality.
Why is indoor air quality important
In the U.S., indoor air pollution can be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor air pollution, according to a recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When you are exposed to poor air quality for prolonged periods of time, it can have a detrimental effect on your health.
When indoor air quality is bad, older adults, young children, and people with respiratory or cardiovascular issues are at risk of suffering serious health issues. The only way to understand your air quality, though, is to have it tested. This allows you to pinpoint and mitigate allergens and other air pollutants including dust, dander, and bacteria before they start making you and your family sick.
Why indoor air quality matters
Indoor air quality is the pureness of the air inside of any given building, including schools, offices, and homes. Good indoor air quality is essential because it impacts the health of the people inside. When air quality is good, the air is pure, clean and healthy to breathe. When it's not, it can be irritating and problematic. In fact, poor indoor air quality can irritate the nose, throat, and eyes, and cause fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and a variety of respiratory diseases and cancers.
While many people assume air quality has improved as a result of modern building techniques and materials, the concentration of certain indoor air pollutants has increased in recent years, due to the popularity of energy-efficient building materials that don't "breathe" as well as their predecessors. Personal care products, pesticides, furnishings, and household cleaners can also have destructive impacts on indoor air quality.
Some of the most common air pollutants include the following:
Combustion by-products like carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke
Molds and other biological agents
Pesticides, asbestos, and lead
Pet dander and hair
Volatile organic compounds
Cleaning supplies and paints
What causes indoor air problems
Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes. Inadequate ventilation, high temperatures, and humidity levels can increase indoor pollutant levels by not filtering in enough fresh air to dilute emissions.
Indoor air quality problems can be caused by inappropriate temperature regulation, excessive humidity, poor air movement, and ventilation problems.
Indoor air contaminants such as gases, vapors, harsh chemicals, dusty molds, fungus, and bacteria can collect indoors.
Insufficient intake of outdoor air is problematic as it creates stale and stagnant indoor air.
For households with pets, excess fur and dander can harbor mold and bacteria that can further worsen indoor air pollution.
Not changing your HVAC system’s air filter regularly can cause a buildup of airborne pollutants and create problems for your system itself.
Ways to increase indoor air quality
Open Windows - Ventilation is key to promoting healthy indoor air, so opening windows (when it’s not too cold or the pollen count isn't too high) is an easy way to encourage a healthy exchange of indoor and outdoor air.
Avoid Smoking Indoors - Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke are harmful to your health. Cigarettes include several dangerous substances that can make you ill and suffer long-term health issues. The risk of heart disease significantly increases for people who are exposed to secondhand smoking, and children are more susceptible to ear infections, lung infections, as well as allergies, and asthma.
Change Filters - It’s recommended to change your air filters every 90 days; however, if you have a forced-air heating and cooling system, you may want to change the air filters more often when there's smoke or pollen in the air.
Don’t Cover Up Odors - Avoid air fresheners, scented candles, incense, and other odor-masking fragrances, which can trigger asthma.
Try an Air Purifier - An air purifier could help to reduce allergens and other pollutants in your home.
How to test your indoor air quality
The best way to test indoor air quality is to have it tested by a certified professional. Depending on the pollutant, there are different methods of testing, making professional assistance the only way to get accurate air quality results.
If you are unsure of the air quality condition in your home, you can start by taking a few steps.
Consider buying an air quality monitor: These monitors typically measure levels of particulate matter, humidity, and AQI (air quality index). However, for a holistic and more accurate test, a trained and certified inspector should be consulted.
Radon Test: Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that can only be detected with a test. It can enter the home through the foundation or groundwater and cause serious health issues over time. Trained and certified home inspectors can test radon levels in your home through specialized equipment and provide a detailed report with findings and recommendations.
Mold Test: Some mold is visible, but often mold spores grow in dark and damp places that are hard to see. These spores can be dangerous when breathed in, especially for anyone with pre-existing respiratory conditions. If you have moisture issues or suspect mold in your home, contact a trained professional for mold testing and inspection.
Asbestos Test: Asbestos is more commonly found in older homes; however, if you notice damage to vinyl tile flooring, attic insulation, or other areas that may contain asbestos, quickly seal off the area and contact a trained inspector to collect samples for testing.
Want to get your Indoor Air Quality Tested? Call us! At WIN Home Inspection, we use state-of-the-art equipment and partner with accredited labs to check your indoor air quality and offer recommendations for minimizing pollutants in your home. Call (800) 309-6753 to connect with our experts and pave the way for building a healthier environment for you and your family.