Indoor air pollution is a common problem in the United States and in homes around the world. Several factors are driving an increase in concentrations of indoor air pollution, but families can take action to reduce the levels of allergens, particle and vapor pollution.
What Is Indoor Air Pollution?
Indoor air pollution can include outdoor air pollutants that enter buildings through ventilation systems or open windows, but mainly result from particulate matter, fumes, and vapors that off-gas from your home’s interior, such as varnishes, glues, and caulks, as well as upholstery, carpeting, cleaning supplies, printers, gas stoves and fireplaces.
Indoor air pollution is more hazardous because it’s more concentrated. Plus, the average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors, breathing in that indoor air.
Some indoor air pollution examples include:
- Mold and mildew from damp conditions or undiscovered leaks
- Pet dander
- Tobacco smoke
- Smoke from cooking and heating (heating system, hairdryers, candles, etc.)
- Gases like methane, carbon monoxide, and radon
- Airborne chemicals from carpets, paint, plastics, and other materials
The Effects of Indoor Air Pollution
High concentrations of air pollution can lead to symptoms that are easy to detect:
- Scratchy and dry throat
- Eye and nose irritation
- Light-headedness or dizziness
Over time, exposure to certain indoor pollutants can lead to more serious health conditions, including:
- Respiratory disease
- Heart disease
- Legionnaires’ disease
Indoor Air Pollution Is a Common (and Growing) Problem
According to the EPA, indoor air pollution has become more of a concern over the past few decades due to a variety of factors. First, energy-efficient building methods have improved internal airflow and reduced energy costs, but also limit the amount of mechanical ventilation required to effectively cycle stale air outside and bring fresh air inside. The use of more synthetic plastics and resins for furniture, flooring, and structural building materials has also introduced more chemicals indoors.
Perhaps the most pervasive problem is the amount of time spent inside. One study found that Americans spend roughly 90% of their lives indoors. Indoor air pollution is considerably more concentrated inside, with pollutant levels up to five times higher than outdoors.
How to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution in Your Home
The most effective way to reduce indoor air pollution is to remove sources of pollution, either at the source or by improved venting of the pollutants to the outdoors.
You can reduce the pollutant levels in your indoor air by:
- Especially when it comes to combustibles like your furnace and stove, ensure that these sources of smoke are well ventilated. For example, install and utilize a hood fan above your stove’s gas range.
- Using the Auto feature of your HVAC system can help move air efficiently throughout your home and through the air filter more often. It can also reduce dust and other particulates by changing your air filter every one to three months.
- Open windows to let in fresh air. If you suffer from outdoor allergies, only open windows when pollen counts are low.
Making the Right Lifestyle and Consumer Choices
- Change habits that contribute to indoor air pollution. Don’t smoke inside and minimize the use of candles and air fresheners.
- Bathe your dog regularly and brush cats and dogs to reduce the presence of pet hair and dander in your home.
- Use homemade green cleaning products made from natural cleaners like vinegar, lemon, and baking soda to replace store-bought cleaning products with ammonia and other harsh chemicals.
- Shop carefully for carpeting and furniture with low or no off-gassing of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
- Shop carefully for home improvement building supplies (low-VOC paint, stains or finishes, glues, and other chemical products) with an eye on potential off-gassing.
- Only perform renovations in spaces that are well ventilated.
Using Air Purifiers and Control Humidity
- Use air purifiers with a HEPA filter to remove airborne irritants and replace the filter regularly. Always follow the instructions of the air purifier manufacturer.
- Use a humidifier or dehumidifier to help regulate your home’s humidity, especially in areas of the home that are typically poorly ventilated or tend to experience higher levels of moisture like the basement and attic. Dry air in particular can exacerbate allergy symptoms and even cause non-allergy sufferers to experience the same itching, scratching, and congestion.
Indoor Air Testing: Monitoring for Pollutants
If you suspect the presence of mold or have specific concerns, be sure to contact an HVAC professional, like One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, to conduct indoor air testing. Otherwise, take these steps to reduce exposure to dangerous gases.
- Always use carbon monoxide detectors. Learn more about where to install these life-saving devices and check them regularly.
- Test for radon to reduce your risk of exposure to the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The EPA has several resources to learn more about radon testing and preventative measures.
Make HVAC Maintenance Part of Your Indoor Air Pollution Action Plan
One of the best ways to reduce indoor air pollution and keep your family safe is regular HVAC maintenance. A well-maintained heating system reduces the risk of pollutants from the heat source and improves air filtration. One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning offers emergency repairs, seasonal inspections, and other services designed to keep your family comfortable and healthy. Call (800) 893-3523 or request an appointment today!