The poor quality of the air you breathe indoors has become one of the top environmental risk factors people face. And with most of us spending the majority of our time inside our homes and businesses, improving indoor air quality should be a priority.
Health effects from polluted indoor air can be immediate or can develop over time, not becoming evident until years after the initial exposure. While most symptoms like headaches, sneezing, dizziness and fatigue are short term and treatable, others can be much more harmful, even fatal. There is no certainty as to what amounts of pollutants or periods of exposure are necessary to create specific health problems.
Sources of indoor air pollution include oil, coal, wood, mold, dust, smoke, pesticides, bacteria, carbon monoxide, asbestos and radon gas. Pollutants are found in certain household cleaners, paints and dust created from home improvement projects. Paints and glue used for craft projects can also be dangerous.
There are a few important things you can do to reduce indoor pollutants and improve the air quality in your home:
- Allow enough ventilation in your home to dilute contaminants. Most HVAC systems do not bring fresh air into your home. Open windows and doors, use fans and window air conditioning units with vent control to increase indoor ventilation – especially when doing activities that create high levels of pollutants.
- Simply eliminate individual sources of pollution or reduce their emissions. Simply sealing or enclosing asbestos contaminated areas, adjusting gas stoves or doing certain home improvement projects or crafts outside can make a big difference – and are more cost efficient than increasing ventilation which can increase energy costs.
- Use air cleaners to filter out pollutants. Air cleaners come in various types ranging from inexpensive small table top models to sophisticated whole house systems. The effectiveness of any cleaner depends on how well it collects contaminants and draws them through its filter. The EPA has guidelines to help you choose one that is best for you.
It is often difficult to determine the cause of indoor pollution symptoms because they can be similar to those created by colds and various allergies. Regardless, taking steps to reduce the amount of indoor pollutants can only benefit those living in your home.