We spend a lot of time discussing indoor air pollution on the blog and for good reason. Most homeowners don’t pay attention to the cleanliness of the air in their homes, especially those who don’t have allergy issues. Even those who aren’t usually sensitive to air pollution, however, can start to experience unpleasant symptoms if things get too bad.
The push for quality air filters, regular maintenance, and possibly air purifiers isn’t just a sales pitch on our part. Indoor pollution has a way of sneaking up on you and causing symptoms that you may not even notice until they become severe. Paying attention to ridding your home of air pollution can greatly improve your air quality and leave you feeling better than ever.
It’s All About Quality
When we talk about air pollution, we are discussing air quality. The pollution itself is what causes your indoor air quality to drop. What happens when your air quality begins to drop? Plenty – short term effect can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, runny nose, sinus problems, coughing, and problems breathing. For those who suffer from asthma or allergies poor air quality can cause life-threatening problems.
There are also long-term effects of living in an environment with dirty air. Depending on what pollutants are hanging out in your home, long-term effects include respiratory disease, heart disease, and potentially cancer linked to certain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
Luckily, there are some fairly easy ways to rid your home of pollutants – all it takes is a little care and attention to keep the air in your home clean and healthy.
One of the most common indoor air pollutants is dust – it’s everywhere, and even clean households must work to keep it at bay. Dust itself usually isn’t a problem, it’s the pesky dust mites that live in the buildup of your home. Their feces cause allergic reactions in most people, but some react more severely to the problem than others.
If you want to be grossed out, take a look at our 13 Disturbing Facts About Dust post. Not only does it tell you all of the reasons you want to keep dust out of your home, it also provides tips on how to get your space as close to dust-free as possible.
Mold is another very common indoor pollutant, especially in the South due to our high levels of humidity and consistently warm temperatures. Much like dust, the mold itself is rarely the problem – it’s the spores produces as part of the reproduction process that drive our respiratory systems nuts. Some molds can be downright dangerous, causing severe illness and fatal reactions in certain people.
The best way to prevent mold is to avoid creating a habitat in which it can live. Ensuring that your home is free of moisture leaks, especially in dark places like basements or under sinks, goes a long way towards preventing an infestation. And if you do have mold in your home, this post can help you determine a plan of action for getting rid of that nastiness.
Ah, pollen…the gift that just keeps on giving. Every spring we get to deal with all those plants waking up and producing enough pollen to coat cars and anything that isn’t protected. Sadly, that pollen also manages to find its way indoors through open door and windows, as well as chimneys and various openings that just seem to occur naturally in homes over time. Once it gets inside, though, it can drive your sinuses crazy, not to mention the fact that it can get sticky and coat tabletops and any other surface it may encounter.
Having a quality air filter that you routinely check and change is your first line of defense against pollen. If your HVAC system can handle it, a HEPA filter helps to collect as much pollen out of the air as possible. Your next defense? Vacuum, dust, wash textile items – in other words, a good thorough cleaning on a regular basis. If you still have issues, it’s time to consider a purifier.
Pet dander is another common air pollutant found in homes, thanks to our love of our furry and feathered friends. That’s right – birds produce dander too, as do guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits…any mammal or bird that you may have in your home produces dander. So what exactly do we mean by “dander?” Popular wisdom blames the hair itself as a problem, but it’s actually the skin cells and saliva from our pets that cause allergic reactions and generally lower the air quality of your home.
We know you aren’t going to give up your pet (we would never ask you to do that). Keeping down the dander in your home is a lot like preventing pollen from becoming problematic. Another step you can add to help keep the air clean is bathing your pets regularly and checking to make sure they aren’t suffering from any skin irritation that would cause them to scratch and release more skin cells into the air. Remember – your pet’s comfort equals cleaner air for you!
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
One of the most preventable air pollution sources is Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). A lot of online sources just refer to them as “chemicals,” but that’s not really an accurate description – if you recall high school chemistry, water is technically a chemical. VOCs are harmful compounds usually found in household cleaning products, adhesives, paints, and air fresheners. They are also found in building materials, which is why we are proponents of having an amazing ventilation system installed in new construction homes.
The best way to keep VOCs out of your home? Don’t let them inside in the first place. We have a whole list of cleaning solutions to replace VOC-filled products you find in most stores. When it comes to home improvement projects, look for products that say “low-VOC” on the label. If you have products that likely have a high concentration of these pollutants, try to store them outside of your home in a shed, if possible.
What Can You Do?
If you think you have an indoor air quality problem, check out these posts on our site – they can help with more specific problems that you may be experiencing. If you still find that you or your family members are reacting to something in the house, or you see a lot of dirt and dust buildup that just won’t go away, it may be time to give us a call. We have a number of techniques and products that can help to get your home’s air quality on track and leave you breathing easy.