People who have medical conditions that prevent them from breathing normally have to avoid being outside as much as possible. It's the only alternative they have to avoid breathing in unhealthy air. Unfortunately, indoor air pollutants can pose just as serious a problem for the same people who suffer from lung diseases. The difference is we can all control the quality of air indoors by getting an indoor air quality testing.
What a lot of people don't realize is the Environmental Protection Agency rates the top five air quality problems in the U.S. as being indoor air problems. That is due in large part to things like excessive moisture that creates mold, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), combustion products, pesticides, asbestos, smoking pollution, dust particles, cold and flu viruses, and bacteria.
After looking at this list and realizing how prevalent these things are in our lives, it should be very clear we need to be actively developing indoor air quality testing solutions. To not do so would be tantamount to letting the air in our homes, offices, and businesses do great harm to our health.
Before anyone can develop meaningful indoor air quality solutions, it is necessary for them to understand that of which they are up against. The indoor air pollutants we mentioned above are just a few of the air pollutants you might experience while in an indoor environment.
The seemingly endless list of indoor air pollutants also includes smoke from coal and cigarettes, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, vapors from dangerous chemicals, radon, smoke from wood-burning furnaces/fireplaces, and lead just to name a few.
By definition, an indoor air pollutant is anything that adversely affects the quality of air indoors, or the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). It's noteworthy that the air quality directly outside of a structure will also affect the air quality inside of the structure. At this point, we would like to do a more in-depth rundown of common indoor air pollutants:
Found in materials like insulation, fireproofing, acoustical materials, and floor tiles. These fibers can cause cancer and lung disease.
Bacteria and viruses
Cause diseases like the common cold, influenza, and asthma. Found in mucous droplets people pick up in the air or from indoor surfaces like doorknobs.
Building and paint products
Gases and chemicals that come from plywood, furniture, paints, lacquer finishes, and other pressed-wood products that emit dangerous gases.
Carbon monoxide (CO)
An odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that contaminates the blood. Created when burning fuels such as gasoline, natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal indoors or very near a dwelling.
Air pollutants come from adhesives, carpet fibers, carpet pads, and the insects that burrow into carpet materials..
Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals
These types of products emit dangerous gases from the chemicals used to make soap and other cleaning products. These chemicals can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat.
Microscopic, insect-like pests that create allergens that can cause allergic reactions and asthma. Typically found in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and carpeting.
Floods, Water Damage, and Mold
Water from the outside often contains sewage and toxins created from oil, gasoline, garbage, dead animals, and chemicals from products used outside. Residual water damage can result in mold spores that are very dangerous to the human respiratory system.
A colorless and flammable gas that creates a volatile organic compound (VOC). An irritant for the eyes, node, and throat. High doses can be fatal.
A toxic metal found in paint, ceramics, wood finishes, and building material once used in the building of structures prior to the 1990s.
Harmful gas created from the indoor burning of fossil fuels like wood or natural gas.
The skin and fur of animals can cause allergens that result in allergic reactions from a human.
A colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas that comes from uranium found in the soil. Radon can penetrate into homes through cracks in walls, basement floors, and open windows.
Smoking pollution is the one most people know something about. It contains chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic. That would include dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, arsenic ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide.
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs
Compounds that come from household products like paints, varnishes, caulking, adhesives, and flooring material. It's the vapor output that causes problems.
Indoor air quality testing is not something you would think about doing on a regular basis. However, there is only one way you could possibly know just how bad the air quality is in your home, office, or business. That would be by administering some form of indoor air quality testing. You would want to do this before you look to implement any meaningful indoor air quality solutions or purchase use any indoor air quality products.
Essentially, there are two ways you can test for air quality inside your home, office, or business. Your first option would be to contract with an outside expert to come in and run air quality tests. Using an electronic indoor quality testing device, they would go from one area of the dwelling to the next, getting readings of contaminant levels. Based on their readings, they can tell you what air quality issues exist and recommend indoor air quality products you can use to address the problems.
Since hiring an expert could be expensive, you might want to consider self-help solutions. By doing so, you could save money and constantly monitor the quality of your air, which would give you cause to address new issues before they can cause real problems.
If you plan to test and monitor the indoor air quality on your own, you would need to purchase the proper devices to do so. Quite literally, the device you would need is called an indoor air quality monitor. You can get a quality device for right around $300. With a quality device, you can test the air quality indoors for the existence of chemicals, gases, dust, carbon monoxide, humidity, and temperature.
By the way, you might want to consider testing for chemicals and pollutants that you would typically find outside and adjacent to the dwelling. This should include soil gas sampling around the building and/or sub-slab vapor sampling.
The one thing any air quality monitor won't pick up is mold. Given the dangers some molds present to humans, this is something you should be testing for regularly. You can actually purchase a mold testing kit from your local hardware store. What you would expect to find is a Petri dish that you would place in corners and areas where water condensation might develop. If there is mold in the area, it will eventually land on the dish and be exposed.
Carbon monoxide acts as poison inside the human body, which makes it particularly dangerous for children. You would want to place your CO alarm close to areas where gas is being used. That would include around glass appliances and the garage. We would highly suggest you place an alarm in close proximity to areas in the house where people sleep, especially children.
Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, you should focus some of your effort on finding reliable ways to improve the indoor air quality of your home, office, or business.
There are three important steps you can take to address all of the factors that might make your indoor air quality unhealthy. The three steps are:
Let’s take a close look at these steps.
If you live in a home that was built prior to 1990 without having recent upgrades, your exposure to potential air pollutants is higher than it would be in a newer home. In such a case, you might want to consider upgrading the home to remove anything like asbestos products, old gas appliances, old carpet and flooring, and anything that was finished with paint and varnish chemicals from yesteryear.
If you are currently using gas appliances, you will want to make sure they rate very low on an emissions test. While electric appliances might be more costly and adversely affect your electric utility bill, they would certainly be safer in terms of limiting the possible emission of gas and chemicals in your dwelling.
One of the easiest ways to prevent the build-up of chemicals and pollutants in your dwelling is to make sure each room is getting access to fresh air from the outside. You can achieve this goal by opening the windows and doors anytime the weather permits. If you have a window air conditioner, you can run it with the vent control open, which increases the airflow of pollutants to the outside.
It's important you take some of these steps when cleaning or making repairs around the home. That's when the dust will be flying at its highest levels. Also, you will want to make sure there is plenty of good ventilation when you are undertaking projects that include painting, cleaning with harmful chemicals, or varnishing furniture.
This is an area where a really good HVAC system could be useful. If your air conditioner and heating system are working at optimum levels, they will be able to remove a high percentage of pollutants during the intake process while blocking the escape of those pollutants with good air filters. Of course, you would need to clean your air filters on a regular basis for maximum effectiveness.
Another option you would have for air filtering would be air purifiers. You can find air purifiers in a variety of sizes, priced from cheap to expensive. A couple of tabletop air purifiers placed strategically throughout the house can improve your dwelling's overall air quality by a significant amount.
In conclusion, the things we do and the products we use expose us to pollutants every day. When trapped indoors, these pollutants and chemicals can cause significant health problems. You can lower your exposure to air pollutants by performing regular indoor air quality testing and using human-friendly indoor air quality products. Finally, a focus on better ventilation and the installation of a quality HVAC with air filtering capabilities will go a long way towards keeping you and your family safe.