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Home Air Quality Testing Explained

Posted in Air Quality, on February 08, 2016

Are you constantly experiencing difficulty breathing or runny nose? Perhaps you should consider home air quality testing. In recent years, an increasing body of evidence has revealed that indoor air can be highly polluted than outdoor air. Other research reveals that people spend about 90% of their time indoors.

Therefore, for numerous persons, the health risks may be greater because of exposure to indoor air pollution. Various harmful pollutants and chemicals could be contaminating your home environment, provoking allergies such as asthma and symptoms such as fatigue and sinus congestion. Here's what you should know about the important procedure.

What Does Professional Air Quality Testing Involve?

While choosing a professional testing firm can be daunting, the task is necessary if you wish to maintain a healthy living environment. You can engage professional services to perform this procedure to establish your home's air quality. This procedure helps detect the broad range of factors that could potentially be affecting your air quality, ranging from carbon monoxide to volatile organic compounds. You'll discover that pollutants such as mold and particulates contribute to health challenges. Nevertheless, testing services seek to establish the present contaminants and their concentration. These services can further provide detailed information on the sources and composition of indoor pollutants. The assessment will examine allergens in the breathing zone, allowing you to enhance your indoor environment. Engaging specialists in this task will not only give you insight into the measures to take but also allow you to protect your family's health. During this test, you want to be sure that a third party laboratory will verify all results. This helps confirm the results' authenticity while ensuring accuracy. If there's inconsistency in the results, the test will often take place again with re-calibrated or different equipment.

Is Air Quality Better Indoors?

A lot of research has already shown us that indoor air can be more problematic than outdoor air quality. In short, it means that indoor air pollution may be just as problematic as outdoor pollution. Whether it’s smoke, airborne chemicals, or off-gassing, these can be harmful to human health.

Compared to outdoor pollution, indoor air quality is mostly misunderstood. According to the latest research, the air we inhale indoors can often be more polluted than that of the air outside. From cooking fumes, to chemical off-gassing, to mold spores, the health effects on occupants can be significant.

The 4 Major Indoor Air Pollutants


1. Volatile Organic Compounds


Volatile organic compounds are a group of chemicals commonly present in indoor air. Some of them have an odour while others don’t. VOCs are emitted from such sources as cigarette smoke, building materials, flooring materials, and a variety of household products.

It’s not unusual for volatile organic compounds to have negative health effects on residents. Depending on personal health, people may have breathing problems, sinus irritation, and even bouts of headache.

For those who are more sensitive, symptoms are more enhanced.

Most people aren’t negatively affected by short-term exposure to low level VOCs. Long term exposure is still being researched, although industrial workers with high exposure have been associated with serious health issues (levels that exceed Health Canada levels).

2. Mold and Mold Spores

Air moisture and indoor dampness promote the growth of mold. High levels of indoor air moisture, condensation, and humidity provide a welcome environment for mold to establish and thrive. In some cases, household mold may not be visible and may not smell.

When allowed to grow, mold can definitely contribute to poor indoor air quality. When you experience a water leak, a serious flood, or unusually high humidity, mold can develop. It feeds on drywall, wood, fabrics, and insulation. It hides inside walls or above ceilings.

People who live in homes with mold may suffer from a variety of health symptoms. These may include sinus irritation; allergic reactions; and shortness of breath. For children, seniors and people who have health issues, symptoms from mold exposure may be serious.

3. Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is an extremely toxic gas – it’s odourless and colourless, and therefore hard to detect. It can kill you before you’re aware of it. The effects of carbon monoxide exposure vary from person to person, depending on age, health, and the amount of exposure.

Typical sources of CO gas (Carbon Monoxide) include natural gas space heaters – leaky chimneys and furnaces – wood stoves and fireplaces – as well as gasoline powered equipment. When your garage is attached to your house, automobile exhaust can be a problem.

At low level concentrations, CO can cause general fatigue, even in healthy people. People with heart conditions will experience more extreme symptoms. At a high concentration level, carbon monoxide will cause impaired brain function and will eventually be fatal.

4. Radon Gas

Radon gas is a result of the radioactive decay of radium. It is invisible, odourless, and tasteless, seeping up through the ground and diffusing into the air. Radon is not a hazard, however, the radioactive decay process does create particles that are potentially damaging.

Unfortunately, many homes have been built on top of radon emitting rocks. When the radon is emitted, homeowners are exposed to the gas through breathing. While radon is present in most air, outdoor air levels are generally low, and therefore pose little problem.

Indoor radon levels are generally higher than outdoor levels, often seeping into the home through the foundation or basement walls. In some parts of the country, uranium and radium levels in rock are higher and more dangerous than other parts of the country.

What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?

Clearly, poor indoor air quality can result from a number of causes. Combustion-related sources are certainly one cause, particularly when poor ventilation does not clear the air. Beyond that, pollutants in the home can be caused by cigarette smoking, regular cooking, and off gassing fumes.

  • Cooking and frying increases humidity levels that create air moisture. When cooking with a gas stove, the amount of pollutants dispersed into the air are increased (especially if a range hood is not used).
  • Non-combustion sources will also contribute greatly to indoor pollution - personal care products; cosmetics and perfumes; building materials; and furniture off-gassing (all release chemicals into air).
  • Some household items release volatile organic compounds into the air, particularly when they are new. These would include household cleaning products; carpeting and broadloom; even mattresses.
  • Building materials can often release gases into the air. Some of these materials include insulation, manufactured flooring, and various wood products. Glues and varnishes are especially responsible.
  • Areas of the home where moisture can accumulate are sources for bio-pollutants such as bacteria, mold and fungus. In general, a moist indoor environment will promote all of the above to develop.
  • Poor ventilation will always contribute to poor indoor air quality. Good ventilation will remove stale indoor air and will effectively reduce indoor air pollutants. Ventilation also limits moisture buildup.

Buying an Indoor Test Kit

When buying an indoor test kit, make sure it seeks to detect the contaminant or allergen you're testing for. It's important to note that not all test kits are created equal. You should also ensure that the kit will test your home in its entirety (typically based on square footage). Bear in mind that indoor test kits aren't recommended for all purposes. Furthermore, adverse environmental and health conditions can demand professional consultation.

Differences between Kits

Indoor test kits can range in cost depending on the breadth of testing you're performing and the number of contaminants. While some kits are functional at home, others will need you to mail the results to a lab for further analysis. You'll discover that the turnaround time for the kits will vary depending on the test kit, kind of testing, and the lab. Some tests may generate results within hours while others may take weeks to generate a complete report.

Types of Air Quality Testing

Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs)

The sensitive and specialized test establishes the amount of VOCs and recognizes the compounds that may be present. Volatile organics are often responsible for odors and are related to numerous cleaning products and industrial chemicals. You'll find that many are toxic or irritating.

Airborne Mold

The test indicates whether mold spores have contaminated the indoor air. Mold development is one of the most common problems affecting indoor air quality.

Formaldehyde Testing

Formaldehyde can off-gas from flooring materials or furniture, particularly those that are made from particle board or plywood. Formaldehyde can also originate from manufacturing, which involves processing chemicals and special glues. It's important to note that the organic compound is common in new furnishings and is a major respiratory irritant.

Particulate Testing

The test reveals whether dust levels are within acceptable levels and the meter designed for ultrafine particles reveals whether particles in the ultrafine range have increased. It's important to note that particulate matter can irritate the respiratory system.

Why Choose SafeAir for Home Air Quality Testing?

For residential air quality testing, SafeAir is your professional choice. We have years of experience throughout the Greater Toronto Area, with a specialty in indoor air quality testing. Our air quality assessment sets the stage for making positive changes to your indoor environment.

As air quality specialists, our team identifies common household problems using specialized tools that provide accurate readings. For comprehensive air testing, we work alongside third-party laboratories in order to provide you with the most objective and impartial air quality test results.

If you're constantly experiencing difficulty breathing, fatigue, or headaches, perhaps you should consider air quality testing to eliminate any possibility of indoor pollutants. If you need assistance with issues associated with air quality, kindly contact us so we can help (416) 414-5690

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