When you own a home, typically indoor air quality isn’t something you think about until it’s an issue. A recent survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center showed that about 70 percent of homeowners aren’t concerned with indoor air quality (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/06/is-poor-indoor-air-quality-making-you-sick/index.htm). However, poor air quality can flair up allergies, cause breathing problems, and exacerbate other health issues you might not even realize are connected to the air you breathe at home. Let’s look at whether your home’s air quality is making you sick and what you can do about it.
So, Is Your Home’s Air Making You Sick?
Carbon Monoxide and Radon
Carbon monoxide (CO) and radon are colorless, odorless gases that most furnaces release when in use. Propane heaters, kerosene burners, and wood fireplaces also emit CO and radon into the air. While the levels are relatively low, with an improperly operating furnace, this can increase the amount of CO and radon in the air which can lead to difficulty breathing and dilute the air quality. CO is deadly in large quantities, which is why most homes are required to have a CO detector to warn families about its presence.
Combustion Gases and Particles
Gas ranges, cooktops, fireplaces and furnaces also emit combustion gases, particles, and soot into the air while in use. Cigarettes and cigars also emit these dangerous chemicals into the air. These substances not only float through the air but stick to your walls, vents, carpets, and furniture. These particles can contain carcinogens that increase your risk of cancer. Ensure your HVAC system is inspected annually by a professional and make sure to heed warnings from CO detectors in your home.
Household cleaners, even green ones, aren’t necessarily safe for your home’s air quality. Each of these cleaners contains a variety of chemicals that linger in the air, despite what the bottles says. Most cleaning manufacturers don’t list the fragrances in cleaners, which is the common culprit of reducing indoor air quality. When using cleaners, make sure to follow all safety instructions, open the windows whenever possible, and don’t overuse them.
Candles, Air Fresheners, and Incense
Air fresheners, candles, and incense may seem like a good idea to use indoors but lingering odors, particles, and chemicals can waft through the air long after you’ve sprayed, blown, or snuffed them out. There are many volatile organic compounds in all three products which can actually trigger allergies and asthma attacks. It’s better to open the windows and let fresh air in then use the above products to counter odors or make your home smell better.
Ideally, humidity in a home should be between 30 to 50 percent. Anything below that can cause your airway to become dry. Anything above that can cause mold to grow and prosper in your home. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers can help, if used properly. Make sure to follow all instructions that come with your humidifier or dehumidifier and have your ducts cleaned when necessary to reduce the risk of interior mold causing indoor air quality issues.
As you can see, indoor air quality is much more than just the air smelling funny to a family. There are a lot of hidden factors that can be causing air quality issues you need to be aware of and work around. Consider hiring a professional to come out and test the air quality of your home. From there, you can work on removing the risk to your air quality and improving it for the health and safety of everyone who walks through your doors.