Typically when we think about air pollution, we think of the air outside. We’ve heard about the various gases and particles created by cars, factories, etc., but did you know that the air inside your home could be polluted too? It’s true. The air you breathe inside your own home could actually be making you and your family sick.
Some of the things thatcould be contributing to poor indoor air quality are more obvious than others. These are things like mold, smoke (both tobacco smoke and smoke from poorly vented fireplaces and cook stoves), and pesticides. Some less obvious pollutants are things like asbestos, formaldehyde, and lead that may be present in the building materials of older homes, radon (which enters from outside and can build up inside poorly ventilated homes), carbon monoxide from stoves and furnaces, common household products like cleaners, and VOCs (or volatile organic compounds.)
Causes of Indoor Air Pollution
Generally speaking the causes of indoor air pollution are lack of sufficient ventilation and proper filtration. Without those two things, pollutants like the ones mentioned above can build up and spread throughout an enclosed space like your home.
Risks of Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor air quality can significantly impact your health in both the short and long term. Some symptoms like itchy eyes or throat, headaches and fatigue may affect some people immediately and can be worse if they are particularly sensitive or already ill. In the long term, exposure to indoor air pollutants can cause things as severe as heart disease and cancer. Some research suggests that the effects of some pollutants compound as exposure time increases, so it’s important to tackle the issue sooner than later.
How to Prevent Indoor Air Pollution
The first step to preventing indoor air pollution is to remove the source. This can be done through things like mold remediation, encapsulation or removal of lead and asbestos, use of low VOC products, and even simply adjusting settings on gas appliances to reduce emissions. The next step is to address ventilation issues. Typically, heating and cooling systems don’t pull outside air into your home. That means that if the air in your home is contaminated by pollutants, that air will just remain in your home and be circulated throughout unless you do something about it. This one is actually really simple. When weather permits, open your windows or doors and let fresh air in. Also, use the ventilation fans in your bathrooms and above your stove. This will allow fresh air in and polluted air out, reducing the concentration of pollutants in the air inside your home. The final step is to clean the air. One way of doing this is to invest in an air cleaner. These are small appliances that pull air in, trap contaminants, and release clean air. Another way, is just to make sure you maintain and regularly change the filters in your heating and cooling system. That simple step will reduce the spread of pollutants throughout your home and help to keep everyone inside healthier.