If you've ever suffered from an asthma attack, allergies or lung conditions, you understand how precious pure, clean air is.
If you do have a medical condition that prevents you from breathing normally, you probably avoid being outside as much as possible. As you want to avoid breathing in unhealthy air.
Unfortunately, that's just not practical.
But, it doesn't stop with outdoor pollutants making breathing difficult. Indoor air pollutants can pose just as serious a problem. The difference is, we do have the power of controlling the quality of the air we breathe indoors.
What pollutants are we dealing with? Mould, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), combustion products, pesticides, asbestos, smoking pollution, dust particles, cold and flu viruses, and bacteria.
Considering we spend 90% of our time indoors, we need to develop indoor air quality testing solutions to make sure we're not breathing in any of those nasties. If we don't, we'd be allowing these free-loading contaminants to pollute the air in our homes, offices, and businesses. Which can really bugger up our health.
Get a Fast Air Con
Before we can develop efficient indoor air quality solutions, we need to understand what we're up against. The indoor air pollutants we mentioned above are just a few that you might experience indoors.
By definition, an indoor air pollutant is anything that adversely affects the quality of air indoors, or the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). The air quality directly outside of your home, school or business will also affect the air quality inside. Let's look at the more common indoor air pollutants:
Found in materials like insulation, fireproofing, acoustical materials, and floor tiles. These fibres can cause cancer and lung disease. However, asbestos cement materials were phased out during the 1980s in favour of asbestos-free products.
Bacteria and viruses
These nasties cause diseases like the common cold, the flu, and asthma. It's commonly found in mucous droplets we unknowingly pick up in the air or from indoor surfaces like doorknobs.
Building and paint products
Gases and chemicals that come from plywood, furniture, paints, plastic materials, lacquer finishes, and other pressed-wood products can emit dangerous gases.
Carbon monoxide (CO)
CO is an odourless, colourless, and tasteless gas that contaminates the blood. The gas is released when burning fuels such as gasoline, natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal indoors or nearby.
Air pollutants come from adhesives, carpet fibres, carpet pads, and the insects that burrow into carpet materials. Ew.
Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals
These types of products emit dangerous gases from the chemicals used to make soap and other cleaning products. They can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat.
These microscopic, insect-like pests create allergens that can cause allergic reactions and asthma. They're typically found in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and carpeting.
Floods, Water Damage, and Mould
Running or stagnant water often contains sewage and toxins created from oil, gasoline, garbage, dead animals, and chemicals from products used outside. Residual water damage can result in mould spores that are super toxic to the human respiratory system.
This colourless and flammable gas creates a volatile organic compound (VOC). VOCs include a variety of chemicals, which may lead to short- and long-term adverse health effects. These compounds come from household products like paints, varnishes, caulking, adhesives, and flooring material. Irritating the eyes, node, and throat, high doses can be fatal.
This toxic metal can be found in paint, ceramics, wood finishes, and building material once used in the building of structures prior to the 1990s.
This harmful gas is 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.
This colourless, tasteless, and odourless gas comes from uranium found in the soil. Radon can penetrate into homes through cracks in walls, basement floors, and open windows. However, as most Aussie homes don't have basements, this isn't as big a problem for us as it is in the US.
Smoking pollution is the one most people know something about. It contains chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic. Ciggie smoke can include dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, arsenic ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide.
Indoor air quality testing is probably not something you would think about doing regularly.
However, there is only one way you could possibly know just how bad the air quality is in your home or office. It's a good idea to administer some form of indoor air quality testing before you look into implementing any indoor air quality solutions.
Essentially, there are two ways you can test for air quality inside your home or office:
Here's how you address any existing air quality issues yourself before they can cause real problems.
You would need to buy an indoor air quality monitor. You can grab a quality device for about $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, it would be a good idea to test for chemicals and pollutants outside and adjacent to your home or business. This should include soil gas sampling around the building and/or sub-slab vapour sampling.
The one thing any air quality monitor won't pick up is mould. Given the dangers some moulds present to humans, this is something you should test for regularly. You can pick up a mould 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 mould 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 you use gas—such as around glass appliances and the garage. We suggest you place an alarm in close proximity to areas in the house where people sleep, especially children.
Since prevention is better than 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 any 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 grandad's time.
If you are currently using gas appliances, make sure they rate ultra low on an emissions test. While electric appliances might be more costly and run up your utility bill, they would certainly be safer in terms of limiting the possible emission of gas and chemicals in your home.
One of the easiest ways to prevent the build-up of chemicals and pollutants indoors is to make sure each room has access to fresh air from the outside. Just crack open the windows and doors anytime the weather permits. If you have a window air conditioner, run it with the vent control open, which increases the airflow of fresh air indoors, pushing pollutants back outside.
When cleaning or making repairs around the home, the dust starts flying all over the shop. Make sure there is heaps of ventilation when you are 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.
Or, you could try air purifiers. You can find them in a variety of sizes, priced from cheap to pricey. A couple of tabletop air purifiers placed strategically throughout the house can improve your home's overall air quality significantly.
Let's face it, we can't escape air pollutants 100% of the time. But, you can lower your exposure 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.