Indoor air quality is a hot topic. However, it begs the question: Why, after all of these years, is it now becoming a concern?
It all starts with the construction of a home. Our homes are constructed “tighter” than ever before – to provide a comfortable climate and increased energy efficiency. As a result, our now tightly built homes also trap particles and pollutants indoors – which can cause indoor air quality to be poor – and have an effect on our health.
Poor indoor air quality can be the culprit for itchy and watery eyes, nasal congestion, longer cold and flu seasons, headaches and even asthma. It is especially prevalent in the colder months when we don’t have windows open to allow breezes to flow through our homes.
As mentioned, building products are (unfortunately) a common culprit for polluting our indoor air. Formaldehyde is a common chemical used with many building materials such as plywood and particle board – all of which are needed to construct our homes. Carpets, glue and paint are other common culprits of “off-gassing” chemicals into the indoor air. Additionally, appliances and mechanical systems (such as gas stoves, fireplaces and water heaters) that burn fossil fuels can all contribute to the poor quality of indoor air.
Indoor air quality isn’t only a concern to new home construction, though. Benzene is another common pollutant which often decreases indoor air quality. It is found in many common household products such as latex-based paints, detergents, oils and rubber. In addition, many cleaners, carpet shampoos, spot removers and household adhesives contain trichloroethylene, a suppressant of the central nervous system. Further, carbon monoxide is often present in homes where furnaces are old or not properly maintained as well as in homes that use gas stoves. When you combine all of these chemicals with dust, mold and pet dander, you can see why indoor air quality is such a concern.
Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
Because indoor air quality can deteriorate over time and cause discomfort and allergy-type symptoms for you and your family, the first step to improving your indoor air quality is simple: control the source of pollution. For outdoor contaminants (such as pollen and dirt), take off your shoes in the foyer and do not walk with them inside the house. Clean your home regularly, and invest in a vacuum that has a HEPA filter that will trap microscopic particles. If your home contains gas-burning appliances or mechanical systems, work with your contractor to see if you can decrease the amount of emissions.
Other steps you can take include improving your home’s ventilation system so you are bringing fresh air into your home. This can be as simple as cracking a window, or operating window or attic fans to circulate the air. Additionally, since household cleaners are a huge culprit for decreasing indoor air quality, make sure when cleaning with these products that you do so in a well-ventilated space. You may also want to research natural cleaning alternatives.
By making these changes and monitoring the indoor air quality of your home regularly, you will be able to keep your family comfortable and healthy at the same time.