When asked about the place where they feel safest in, most people will think about their homes. With the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly far from over, no wonder a lot of us have been loving the introverted life! From setting up an indoor gym to just having food provisions delivered, a lot of health-conscious Americans will do whatever it takes to avoid venturing out to the great, perilous outdoors.
You can’t get exposed to harmful pathogens if you’re safely snuggled under your favorite blanket, right? We’re sorry to burst your bubble, but the air inside your home can be just as dangerous as it is in the city.
Take it from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - it’s important to take control of common pollutants that can compromise indoor air quality. After all, the risk of developing health complications from these is no joke!
Airnex has always been committed to helping you breathe clean, so leave it to this article to walk you through the sources of indoor air pollution along with all-natural ways to beat them all.
Effects of indoor pollution on your health
EPA warns that indoor air pollutants can cause both immediate and long term blows to you and your family’s health. Here’s a quick look at the specific discomforts or illnesses you’ll want to avoid.
Most of these symptoms are treatable and will go away pronto. Depending on your age or preexisting medical conditions, a single exposure to pollutants can cause:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation
- Triggered asthma
These can easily be mistaken for flu. To verify if indoor air pollution is the culprit, see if the symptoms fade after leaving a specific area.
Long term effects
There are health problems that can take years of repeated exposure to acquire, and they can be dangerously fatal:
- Respiratory diseases
- Heart diseases
What’s challenging for scientists is that we’ve yet to find out what specific concentrations of pollutants or periods of exposure necessary to give rise to complications. Moreover, people tend to react differently to these substances.
Read on to know about the specific indoor air pollutants that could be lurking in your home.
Common sources of indoor air pollution and how to get rid of them
Indoor air pollution is usually caused by harmful gas or particles released into the air. If your house has inadequate ventilation, expect to have it worse since there won’t be enough outdoor air to help dilute such pollutants.
Knowledge will be your best protection, so we collated a list of common sources you can watch out for.
Mold and mildew
As a biological pollutant, mold and mildews love wet areas like humidifiers, unvented bathrooms, and cooling coils. Check your central air handling systems regularly, or else it might turn into its breeding ground.
- For reduced moisture buildup, install exhaust fans in your kitchen, attic, crawl spaces, and bathroom
- Try to keep humidity levels in your home between 30 to 50%
- Thoroughly clean your humidifiers, refrigerators, air conditioners, and other damp appliances thoroughly and regularly
- Clean and disinfect areas in your house that usually get damp or wet. Be sure to protect yourself with gloves and a pollution mask when you do!
Asbestos is a form of mineral fiber commonly used in building construction materials (e.g. ceiling and floor tiles, roofing shingles, cement, etc.). While it’s known for its superb heat resistance and fiber strength, prolonged exposure can lead to severe respiratory diseases such as cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
Actually, EPA cautions that it’s best to leave asbestos alone and have the professionals handle it. Here’s their recommended dos and don’ts for homeowners worried about asbestos contamination:
- Take extra precautions to avoid damaging structures manufactured with asbestos. Don’t attempt to drill holes, sand, saw, or scrape them!
- Do not just sweep, dust, or vacuum asbestos debris, contact a professional
- Limit your family’s access to areas and materials containing damaged asbestos.
Formaldehyde is a flammable and colorless gas accompanied by a strong odor. It’s usually found in composite wood products (e.g. plywood, fiberboard, etc.), building materials, and even household products like glues, paints, dishwashing liquid, and fabric softeners.
While EPA has released regulations to limit formaldehyde content of manufactured products, here’s what you can do to protect your family from it:
- Only purchase wood products that are compliant with EPA quality standards (eg. ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2009 for hardwood plywood, ANSI A208.1-2009 for particleboard, and ANSI A208.2-2009 for medium-density fiberboard)
- Formaldehyde contamination is worsened by heat and humidity, so consider installing air dehumidifiers and conditioning units
- Increase ventilation in areas with furniture and other substances containing formaldehyde
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
Did you know that VOC concentrations are up to ten times higher indoors than outdoors? Certain solid and liquid substances in your home can emit harmful gases both while being used and when stored. These include paints and varnishes, cleaning and disinfecting chemical-based products, cosmetics, and degreasing materials.
- Work in a well-ventilated area whenever you have to use products with VOC, and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions carefully. These are potential carcinogens, so protect yourself with a pollution mask to avoid inhalation.
- Buy VOC-containing products in limited quantities. Gases could leak even from closed containers, so it’s best to throw away old or unneeded chemicals safely.
Indoor Particulate Matter (PM)
Also referred to as particle pollution, indoor particulate matter involves a mix of solid and/or liquid particles in the air. While these vary in shape and size, EPA warns us about those measuring 10 micrometers in diameter. When inhaled, these can cause serious cardiovascular and respiratory effects.
Common origins of PM include stoves, fireplaces, heaters, and any activity that requires combustion.
- Ensure that all appliances dealing with fire or fuel are vented to the outdoors. It’s also recommended to install exhaust fans in your kitchen.
- Only use EPA-approved wood in your stove or fireplace
- Contact a professional to inspect your central heating systems at least annually
- Regularly change your heating system’s filters in accordance with manufacturer instructions
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
CO earned its name as a “silent killer” since it is an odorless and colorless gas that can cause damage to your health way before you become aware of its presence. Contamination in your home can be caused by gas stoves, leaking chimneys and furnaces, gasoline-powered equipment, vehicle exhausts, and unvented space heaters that use kerosene.
- Avoid leaving your car on for an unnecessarily long period inside the garage
- As much as possible, do not purchase unvented heaters or stoves
- Contact a professional to quickly repair any suspected CO leak
While indoor air pollution and its accompanying health risks are alarming, you can always take control of its sources. With adequate knowledge about the most common pollutants, adherence to EPA guidelines and recommendations, and investing in protective equipment, you can greatly reduce you and your family’s exposure.
Got loved ones who often stay indoors? Help them prevent dangerous contaminations in their homes by sharing this article. And in case you have other favorite remedies we might have missed, leave a comment below and let’s chat about them!