Take Care of Your Air - Is Your Daily Environment Congested?
Posted in Air Quality, on June 26, 2018
Today’s post is a guide to indoor air quality and the various pollutants and other factors that affect its quality. Your indoor air quality is a key part of a healthy indoor life, and since we spend close to 90% of our time indoors, addressing any problems before they become critical is important! At SafeAir, we have in-depth experience addressing indoor air quality in residential and commercial buildings, offering specialized testing and problem-solving to create a more comfortable indoor environment.
This guide to indoor air quality will cover some of the basics or good indoor air quality, pollutants in your indoor environment, and what you can do to take action.
Understanding Indoor Air Quality
The key to understanding a guide to indoor air quality is understanding just what indoor air quality is. We all need to breathe, but not all air is equal - pollutants, VOCs, chemicals, dust, and other airborne particles can all create a toxic indoor air environment that can seriously affect your health and productivity. For example, someone suffering from a dust allergy in an indoor environment with a high dust concentration will obviously be uncomfortable and feel ill. But in some environments, the cause of poor indoor air quality isn’t obvious and since symptoms of poor indoor air quality can mimic those of the common cold or flu, a guide to indoor air quality will hopefully help you identify problematic places in your home or office.
The Symptoms of Poor Indoor Air Quality
There are a number of different symptoms of poor indoor air quality; the bad news is that not everyone experiences the same reaction to any different pollutant or allergen. In general, however, there are a number of common symptoms that focus your eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory system, the parts of your body most deeply in contact with the air you breathe. Common symptoms of poor indoor air quality include:
- Wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Running nose, sneezing
- Dry skin
- Worsening of respiratory diseases, like asthma.
Common Indoor Air Quality Pollutants
In this guide to indoor air quality we’ve chosen to list five common pollutants or irritants found in home that tend to affect our clients. These are:
- Secondhand smoke
- Volatile Organic Compounds
There is growing awareness across Canada of the effect that radon gas has over the long term, which includes a higher prevalence of lung cancers and disease. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by decomposing uranium buried far beneath the ground, and like carbon monoxide, radon is an odourless, colourless gas. It makes its way into our home by seeping up through the ground and coming in through cracks in the foundation. The only way to know if radon is affecting your home is through a specialized test; if your home does test positive, there are a number of ways to reduce radon buildup and keep you and your family safe.
These pollutants are created by burning materials and can take the form of small particles or hazardous gasses. Fuel burning appliances are often the source of these pollutants:
- Water heaters
- Gas stoves
- Space heaters
Each type of appliance will behave differently and may or may not affect your indoor air quality. Regular maintenance or cleaning goes a long way in preventing buildup and ensuring that you aren’t adversely affecting your indoor air quality.
Even after decades of outreach about the hazard of smoking, secondhand smoke still warrants a place on our guide to indoor air quality. Secondhand smoke can come from:
- Smoke exhaled by the smoker
Using ‘filtered’ products doesn’t help, and exposure to second hand smoke is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke in non-smoking adults. Additionally, secondhand smoke is linked to asthma in children and can worsen symptoms and increase the likelihood of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Also known as VOCs, these are small chemical particles released from solid or liquid materials at room temperature: the fresh smell of a lemon is a VOC, but so is the burn of bleach. Many people have adverse reactions to VOCs, which has lead to a number of different products on the market with zero or low VOCs. Some common household products that contain VOCs are:
- Cleaning sprays
- Building materials
- Perfumes, hairsprays and other scented products
Most VOCs evaporate quickly into the air, but some can linger, and even a short exposure may still cause someone distress.
Keeping known allergens low in your home is a key part of reducing the number of asthma attacks. People who suffer from asthma or other chronic lung conditions may struggle with elevated numbers of a number of substances in the indoor air, such as:
- Pet dander
- Dust and dust mites
Asthma is a serious, life threatening condition that can result in coughing, a tight chest, wheezing, and restricted airways.
Mold is an important player in the world’s ecosystems, but when it grows indoors, it can cause a lot of indoor air pollution. Mold reproduces by sending out spores that can be breathed in or get stuck in our eyes, nose, and mouth, causing irritation and illness. Mold is a serious problem in your home - not only will it cause you to feel ill, but it can also damage your property and destroy building materials, heirlooms, books, paper, and furniture.
Improving Your Indoor Air Quality
Reducing or eliminating any of these sources of poor indoor air quality doesn’t have to be difficult. There are a number of easy steps you can take to improve your environment:
- Control allergens and pollutants
- Change furnace or fan filters regularly
- Keep indoor humidity low to prevent mold growth
- Clean often
- Test for radon
- Install carbon monoxide detectors
- Inspect and clean any appliances that burn fuel
- Smoke outdoors
If you still have questions about the indoor air quality at your home or workplace, the best thing to do is get a professional air quality assessment. At SafeAir, we run thorough, rigorous tests that can profile your indoor air and let you know where you may need improvement. Our guide to indoor air quality will help you make any adjustments to indoor air quality that you may need to help.