While people always talk about the pollution found in the air we breathe outside, there are also vast amounts of indoor air pollutants that can be harmful to us. And since indoor air tends to be recycled more (since it’s trapped in an enclosed area), it’s extremely important that you determine if your home or business is harboring any – or many – of these pollutants. Indoor air pollutants can come from anywhere:
- Pollutants can seep in from outside
- It can come from consumer products
- It can come from mold
- It can come from pests and insects
- It can come from construction materials
If your home or business has a poor ventilation system, then these pollutants can really begin to pile up, reaching dangerous levels. Here are five reasons why you should consider indoor air-quality testing for your home or business.
1. BECAUSE YOU LIKELY HAVE A STOVE, FIREPLACE, FURNACE …
The number one cause of indoor air pollutants worldwide is gases and particles from combustion, which comes from sources such as fireplaces, stoves, furnaces, space heaters and even smoking. These sources give off pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). CO kills around 500 people per year, while NO2 – if there is long-term exposure – can cause lung infections and emphysema. CO is colorless and odorless, meaning you can only know it exists through testing (such as with a CO alarm). These alarms should be examined by a professional yearly. NO2 is reddish-brown with an acrid odor.
When using a fireplace or stove, a good tip is to ventilate the area with a fan or a window.
2. BECAUSE 21,000 AMERICANS ARE KILLED EACH YEAR BY RADON
Radon – another colorless and odorless gas – is the second leading cause of lung cancer in our country. Radon is found naturally in our soil (some areas have higher levels), and it can typically disperse harmlessly into the air. But sometimes it gets trapped within buildings – through cracks in a foundation – and causes unsafe levels in basements and lower floors. The EPA radon zone map can give you a good idea of if you’re at risk, but the only way to know if you’re at unsafe levels is with air-quality testing.
3. BECAUSE MOLD AND MILDEW ARE UP TO NO GOOD
Your bathroom and basement are breeding grounds for mold and mildew, although this opportunistic air pollutant causer is known to spread all over a home. Health effects can vary, but often include lung/breathing irritation, and even asthma in young children.
But how in the heck do you fight mold? Well, you fight moisture. If your indoor humidity levels are below 60%, you’re off to a good start. Also consider using a dehumidifier or fan. The CDC suggests that your first step, when fighting mold, is to remove the problem area, rather than get air quality testing. However, mold and mildew can hide in tiny pockets, thus it’s wise to seek the support of a professional.
4. BECAUSE DUST, DANDER AND DROPPINGS ARE DANGEROUS
Did you know that most homes and buildings have their fair share of mites and cockroaches lurking in the background? And that these little critters leave a trail of allergenic feces and body parts all over the place? Nope, that’s not pleasant sounding, nor is it health friendly. Rodent urine and feces can also affect our breathing, and even our pet’s dander and airborne proteins from cat saliva join the air pollutant party. Testing your indoor air can sniff out some of these pollutants, giving you an idea of what actions you need to take (rat traps, exterminator, etc.). The best way to fight this ongoing battle, however, is to keep your home ventilated.
5. BECAUSE OF THOSE PESKY PESTICIDES
Speaking of pests and rodents … while getting rid of them solves one issue, it also causes another. Poisons – designed to fight off pests – can also be toxic to humans. Symptoms of pesticide exposure include headaches, nausea, increased risk of cancer and even long-term brain damage.
Most US homes have at least one pesticide lurking indoors (think of disinfectants). You should know how your house or office holds up – by getting the indoor air tested. And then, when you determine your air quality, making changes, such as using non-chemical cleaning alternatives. Also, ventilate your home often.
IT’S AN ONGOING BATTLE OF TEST, FIX, AND TEST AGAIN
Even if you get your home tested, and rid it of all the air pollutants found, your problems aren’t solved. This is an ongoing battle where you should test your indoor air quality regularly, and find ways to increase the filtering and ventilation of your air. Ongoing maintenance of your air quality will ensure that you, your family, and your co-workers remain happy and healthy.