Indoor Air Quality – How Healthy are You Living?
Following up on our last blog post on mold inside the home, it is also important to know there are other potential ways to decrease indoor air quality and ways to prevent it from happening.
Poor indoor air quality, caused by indoor air pollution, has become an important health and safety concern at home and in the workplace. By understanding some of the possible causes of this pollution, you can start to improve the quality of the air you breathe indoors.
Some people spend up to 90 per cent of their time indoors – at home, school and work. Poor indoor air quality may cause symptoms such as headaches, wheezing, tiredness, coughing, sneezing, sinus congestion, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and/or irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Allergy or asthma symptoms may also get worse because of poor indoor air quality.
Here are examples of common indoor air contaminants and their main sources:
- Improper or inadequately–maintained heating and ventilation systems.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2), smoke sources,
- Perfume, cooking odours, body odours– from building occupants, pets and rodents.
- Dust, fibreglass, asbestos, gases (including formaldehyde) – from building materials.
- Toxic vapours, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – from home & workplace cleansers, solvents, pesticides, disinfectants, glues.
- Gases, vapours, odours – off-gas emissions from furniture, carpets, and paints.
- Dust mites – from carpets, fabric, foam chair cushions & beds
Dust Mites (enlarged)
- Microbial contaminants, fungi, moulds, bacteria – from damp areas, stagnant water and condensate pans.
- Biological contaminants include mold, house dust, bacteria, viruses, animal dander, pet saliva, pollen, cockroaches and mites. They are either living things or produced by living things.
- Ozone – from photocopiers, electric motors, electrostatic air cleaners.
- Effects from nearby construction/roadwork, waste and garbage.
- Contamination by construction materials, glues, fibreglass, particle boards, paints, chemicals, etc.
- Increase in number of building occupants and time spent indoors.
It is common for people to report one or more of the following symptoms:
- Dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin
- Shortness of breath/respiratory challenges
- Hypersensitivity and allergies
- Sinus congestion
- Coughing and sneezing
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbance
- Eye, throat, nose and lung irritation.
- Stress triggers
People generally notice their symptoms and feel better after they have left the home/building or when they have been away for a weekend or on a vacation.
Many of these symptoms may also be caused by other health conditions including common colds or the flu and are not necessarily due to poor IAQ. This fact can make identifying and resolving IAQ problems more difficult.
What can I do to control/reduce contaminants?
- There are many indoor house plants that will purify the air. Research online or at a nursery to find which suit you best.
- Keep the home and workplace clean and all surfaces dust-free to reduce dust mites, pollens and animal dander, using natural chemical–free cleaners.
- Regularly clean heating vents and change heating and air conditioning system filters.
- Vacuum the home at least weekly including floors, bedding and soft furnishings. People with allergies should leave the room during vacuuming and for at least an hour after the dust settles. If someone suffers from allergies, you might consider buying a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (High-Efficiency-Particulate-Arresting) filter. A HEPA filter traps very small particles which are not collected by regular vacuum cleaners. You may also consider installing a built-in vacuum cleaner which vents outside the main living area, such as outside.
- Steam clean carpets, regularly.
- Regularly wash bedding, including pillows and mattress pads, in hot water – wash temperature should be at least 55°C (131°F).
- Don’t let things get wet – if they do, dry out immediately.
- Maintain ongoing air – exchange to/from the outdoor environment (as long as odour-free)
Your caring Home Inspector and Consultant advises reducing chemicals and improving airflow in the home/workplace should improve the air quality. If you need any assistance in finding sources of indoor air pollution, contact Glenn Duxbury at Duxbury & Associates .