A Guide to Indoor Air Quality

Interior air quality guidelines

Most people assume that air pollution is an outdoor issue; they feel an imaginary sense of protection and safety within their homes and buildings; contrary to popular knowledge, indoor pollution is just as bad, if not worse, for your health. Often people do not even realize how many household items create pollutants that are released into the air of their homes. Air quality is responsible for a large variety of health risks. The average person spends close to 90% of their time indoors, making poor indoor air quality a major concern. Pollutants enter our air in several ways and in several forms. Take steps in improving indoor air quality by understanding possible air pollutants and the health risks they pose for people. Finally, learn how to cleanse poor air quality, resulting from these pollutants, to create a healthier indoor atmosphere.

Pollutants come in various forms; living organisms, like mold and dust mites, are just as harmful as a variety of gases and chemicals that are found indoors. Secondhand smoke, for example, is caused by smoking, or the burning of tobacco products; when burned indoors, the chemicals enter the air, walls and furniture and seeping into the bodies of anyone present. Chemicals found in several cleaning products, paints, waxes, air fresheners, pesticides and repellents are considered Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs; these products are commonly used and stored within homes, schools and other buildings for basic cleaning; the problem is that the chemicals within them are extremely harmful to health, and they evaporate out of the cleaners and into the air. Asthma triggers and molds are other common indoor pollutants; dust mites, animal dander, certain foods and pollen can be found in our air, causing respiratory issues and discomfort. Molds produce spores that thrive in damp environments, like the bathroom or kitchen. Combustible pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide come from machines in our houses, especially heating units, which release these odorless, colorless gases into the environments when not functioning properly. Lastly, radon is a radioactive gas that is created in soil; this gas is known to enter homes and buildings through areas in contact with the earth; cracks in the floor can allow radon to seep through and enter into the air, making the air quality extremely dangerous. It is important to know the symptoms that come along with each of these pollutants, because awareness is the first step in solving the problem.

Health risks from pollutants vary in degree of severity; symptoms of poor air quality range from allergies and fatigue to cancers and even death. Learn how to identify factors contributing to indoor pollution in the air by identifying the symptoms. When allergens and molds are the culprit, symptoms tend to be a combination of runny nose, sneezing, red eyes and/or difficulty breathing. Secondhand smoke also causes issues with asthma and has been linked to causing ear infections. Ear, nose and throat irritation, headaches, and nausea are symptoms of Volatile Organic Compounds; if not taken care of, VOCs can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system, and sometimes lead to cancer. Combustible pollutants, like carbon monoxide, inhibit oxygen from reaching the brain, resulting in headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and, sometimes, death. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smoking individuals, and is the second leading cause for everyone else. If experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is very likely that the quality of air is being affected by pollutants. Action is necessary to aid in prohibiting the increase of severity in symptoms.

To aid in the cleansing of indoor air, follow these 12 easy steps to improving air quality today

1. Ventilation Fresh air will clear out a lot of the indoor pollutants, so it is important to open the windows or doors of buildings for at least an hour a day. Other buildings may have air conditioning units that have a setting to rotate the air from inside into the outside and outside to the inside.

2. Dehumidifier

Purchase a high quality dehumidifier. Moisture within buildings give mold and bacteria ideal conditions for growing. Humidity within the home is most desired between 30% and 50%. Be sure to run fans in areas where moisture is likely, i.e. bathrooms and kitchens.

3. Filters

Heating and air conditioning units have built-in filters that are meant to collect dust and other pollutants. If the filters are not replaced regularly, they are not as efficient. Put in high quality filters and maintain the utmost efficiency in pollutant filtration.

4. Smoking

Do not allow smoking inside. Cigarettes and other tobacco products are loaded with harmful chemicals that release into the air, and remain in the air, walls, furniture, etc. of the building. Everyone in the building becomes subject to the harmful effects of the chemicals.

5. Clean

It is important to dust and clean homes and other buildings thoroughly. Clean away mold and mildew; brush away dust bunnies. Get rid of all the things that cause allergies within the house. Make sure to also use cleaning products that are green, or environmentally safe, because they contain less harmful chemicals.

6. Water

Fix all water leaks. Anywhere that water can sit will grow mildew, molds and other bacteria that are bad for the air quality.

7. Wash Sheets

Make sure to wash all sheets, blankets, towels and furniture covers in hot water. Items for bedding should be washed once a week. Hot water will kill off any pollutants and keep the sleeping environment fresh and clean.

8. Mattress

Purchase an allergen proof mattress. Dust mites and other organic pests can grow and burrow in beds and furniture. It is important that where you sleep is free of these things. Use anti-allergen spray to use for the rest of the house.

9. Pets

Keep pets groomed. Pet dander can be found floating through the air in houses and buildings where pets are housed. Shampoos, oils and medicines can help reduce pet dander in the air.

10. Seal

Seal cracks in the floor so that radon cannot enter from the ground into the house. Make sure that windows are sealed efficiently to keep pests, pollen and other air pollutants out. This will also help to reduce any moisture that is entering from the outside into the house or building.

11. Gas Warnings

Install carbon monoxide and radon detectors to notify you if the deadly gas is present in the home. If need be, a radon sump can be installed to remove radon from the air.

12. Paint

Strip away old chemical based paint, and repaint interiors with new environmentally safe paint products. So many items within households are harmful pollutants; most of the time we are not even aware of their harmful nature. Keep health at its best by following these 12 steps to improve the quality of air indoors; it is worth the time, money and effort needed to change these things. Imagine how much air we breathe in a day... Now imagine how many pollutants are entering our bodies each day... Improved quality of air means an improved quality of life.

The following products are just a few trustworthy items that can help improve indoor air quality:

  • CO800 Carbon Monoxide Detector warns when deadly gas is present.
  • Green Promise by Benjamin Moore Paints are safe for everyone, including nature.
  • Simple Green All-Natural Cleaner works just as well as regular cleaners, but lacks the dangerous chemicals.
  • Frigidaire FAD704TDP Dehumidifier is the best on the market for large space areas, like homes and schools.
  • Use vacuum with a HEPA filters; used in surgery room to maintain cleanliness and sanitation, these filters are the top of the line for improved air quality.

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Author: Conrad Mackie