Have you ever gone into a building or home that leaves you feeling, well, a little ill? There’s seemingly nothing wrong – everything appears to be clean, and there are no noticeable signs, such as smoke, that would indicate that there is a problem with indoor air quality. But still, you end up with a scratchy throat, burning eyes, a headache, or maybe just a stuffy nose that magically clears as soon as you get outside.
These physical symptoms are some of the most common associated with indoor air pollution problems. Surprisingly, indoor air can be substantially more polluted than air outside. This seems odd, but consider the fact that most homes are created to keep air in, which means there aren’t always opportunities for pollutants to leave the home. Combine that with behaviors that can increase air pollutions plus an HVAC system that doesn’t adequately clear pollutants from your home, and you can end up with a home where it’s hard to breathe.
There are a number of sources of home air pollution, but below are the three most common contributors. Luckily, they are also among the easiest to treat!
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals containing carbon that easily become gasses. While this definition sounds harmless, the gasses are easily passed into the air of your home, where they can potentially cause respiratory distress. VOCs are found in a number of substances, including building materials, adhesives, paints, and everyday cleaning products. In a home where there is not enough ventilation, VOCs can definitely become a health hazard.
The first step to preventing VOCs from sullying your home’s air quality is to not letting them in the house in the first place. If you have a new home, make sure you have proper ventilation to release any build-up of VOCs from the building process. Next, make sure that any products used for home improvement, like paints and adhesives, are marked as “low-VOC”.
The second step is to change your current routine if you are using products that likely contain VOCs. Cleaning products in particular are a major source of indoor pollutants. It might be time to take a lesson from grandma and exchange some harsher cleaning products for good old water and vinegar, or at least cleaning products designed to limit indoor air pollution.
The term “dust” actually covers a wide array of potential pollutants, including animal dander, dead skin, insect feces, dirt, sand, and pollen. There are a lot of different components to dust, but needless to say, it’s not particularly healthy to breathe in a lot of it. In particular, those who suffer from allergies can have major problems in a dusty environment, as components of the dust cause potentially dangerous respiratory reactions.
To take control of dust in your home, the first step is to check your HVAC system and ensure that the filter is clear and gathering dust as it should. For allergy sufferers, it may be necessary to invest in better quality air filters. Next, your ducts and coils should be checked for cleanliness, as these are areas where dust can build up and just blow through your HVAC system continuously.
Next, develop a weekly routine of vacuuming and dusting your home. Be sure to use microfiber towels for dusting. Traditional feather dusters and many other products on the market don’t do a great job of actually collecting dust – instead, they just move it around. Reducing the amount of dust in your home means there is less for the HVAC system to capture.
Finally, if you have taken the above steps and you are still having dust issues, it may be time to consider an air purifier. Some homes, especially those out in the country or near dirt roads, can still develop a lot of dust even when precautions are taken. An extra step may be necessary to get your air quality to a great place.
You know what we’re talking about here – mold and mildew. These guys love to grow anywhere that moisture is routinely present, and they can cause massive respiratory problems. For those who are sensitive, even small amounts of mold and mildew spores in the air can cause a severe reaction. If you have a major mold invasion, everyone may feel the discomfort of itchy eyes and troubled breathing.
A thorough check of your HVAC system will identify any leaks that could be causing mold or mildew growth, but the most likely culprit for this type of problem is usually leaks in kitchens, bathrooms, or basements. Any leaks found should be repaired immediately, and damage from mold or mildew may have to be treated by a professional. For severe infestations, it’s possible that drywall, insulation, and ceilings may need to be replaced. Mold damage isn’t something for DIYers to tackle…this is one instance where a professional should be called.
To prevent mold growth, make sure you are using ventilation fans when showering, and keeping the overall humidity in your home low. Air conditioning can help with this, but for extra humid areas like a basement, it may be necessary to invest in a dehumidifier. This will help to make the environment less appealing to those nasty damp growers.