If you live in a major city, you probably already understand the effects that outdoor air pollution can have on your health. But even living in a rural area doesn’t completely protect you from air pollution.
Air quality inside a home or building can sometimes be worse than outside. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that indoor air quality is often two to five times worse than outdoor air quality. Our structures are built with windows, doors, and walls to protect us from the outside elements, but these features can often trap indoor air pollutants, keeping them from escaping. While it’s important to protect the inside of your home from inclement weather and extreme temperatures, keeping everything closed up can decrease the quality of your indoor air. Since we spend a large majority of our time indoors, it’s vital that we pay close attention to the quality of the air that we’re breathing while we’re inside.
There are a number of contributing factors that can lead to indoor air pollution. Let’s take a look at why indoor air pollution is often worse than outdoor air pollution and discuss a few ways that you can fix this issue.
1. Chemical Cleaning Products
Chemical cleaning products have a negative impact on the quality of our indoor air. Cleaning products generally contain harsh, harmful substances such as chlorine, bleach, ammonia, fragrances, and sulfates. When we come into contact with these chemicals or we breathe them in, we can experience headaches, breathing issues, eye irritation, skin irritation, and hormone disruption. There are safer alternatives available, which are made from natural and plant-based ingredients.
2. Chemical Pesticides
If you have had a pest problem in your home, you may have called a professional to address the issue for you. While they may have successfully removed the pests, it is important that you understand what kind of products were used in your home during the extermination. Chemical pesticides are often extremely toxic to humans and pets. Even ventilating your house after a pesticide application is not always enough to remove harmful fumes. The products are designed to stick around to prevent re-infestation. If pests are an issue, it is a good idea to ask your exterminator about healthier, chemical-free options for pest removal.
3. Off-Gassing Products
There are a surprising number of products in our homes that can release chemicals into the air we breathe. New construction materials such as countertops, carpets, flooring, and even furniture can all emit formaldehyde. Many of these products can take years to off-gas completely, exposing you to chemicals on an ongoing basis if you don’t have proper ventilation in your home.
One way to reduce your amount of chemical exposure is by off-gassing products before you bring them into your home. New furniture can be kept in a garage for a few weeks until any detectable odor has dissipated. Many businesses that sell carpeting will air out a new product for a couple of weeks before installation. You may be able to ask them to unroll the product and keep it a little longer if you are concerned with indoor air pollution.
4. Laundry Products
Many families don’t consider laundry products when thinking about ways to reduce indoor air pollution. Scented detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets, although they smell nice, all contain chemicals that hang around in your laundry room, on your clean laundry, and in your indoor air. All these items can add to indoor air pollution and irritate your eyes, nose, lungs, and skin.
5. Ventilation Issues
If you have all your windows and doors closed at all times, it can prevent air from passing across different environments. This is especially true with new builds that are very sealed. When air isn’t exchanged between the indoors and outdoors, indoor pollutants will build up to unhealthy levels. Even as you circulate air through your home using an HVAC system, most systems are not equipped to remove all possible chemicals and pollutants from the indoor air we breathe.
It’s a good idea to air out your home each day. Even when the weather is chilly in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota, cracking a window open for a mere five minutes will suffice. You can also run exhaust fans in your bathrooms and kitchen to circulate the air. Investing in a whole-house air purification device can remove viruses and pathogens from the air you breathe, in addition to odors, chemicals, and other sources of indoor air pollution.
6. Toxic Gases
Toxic gas exposure tends to be a more significant risk in commercial or business settings, but homes can also experience issues with carbon monoxide or radon. Radon occurs naturally and enters your home through the ground underneath the structure. Exposure to high radon levels can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain.
Ozone exposure also occurs sometimes in homes. Ozone can become trapped inside your home after coming in from the outside. It is also sometimes emitted from air purifiers, washing machines, and water treatment systems.
Indoor air quality can be affected by a variety of particulates that you can’t see but can inhale. Even the cleanest home has dust, pet dander, mold spores, and pollen circulating through the air without anyone knowing they exist. This is why it is important to clean or replace your HVAC filter according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Using a filter can often remove up to 99.97% of the particulates in your indoor air, assuming you have an efficient, properly maintained HVAC system. Depending on the type of filter that you are using, you will usually have to change it every 30 to 90 days.
8. Tobacco Smoke
Being around tobacco smoke outside is unhealthy, but bringing that exposure indoors can be extremely dangerous. Secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke can lead to asthma, heart disease, stroke, and even lung cancer. A person does not need to be actively smoking to increase indoor air pollution. If someone has been smoking within the past two hours without ventilation, indoor air pollution will still be present. In addition, tobacco smoke can settle on surfaces, which is another factor that reduces indoor air quality.
If you are concerned about the quality of your indoor air and you would like to work with a trained professional to have an assessment performed, reach out to Kalins Indoor Comfort for more information. In addition to checking your indoor air quality with our free IAQ analysis, we can help you upgrade your current HVAC system to improve air circulation and reduce exposure to indoor air pollutants. Our other services include routine HVAC maintenance, emergency repairs, air conditioner installation, heating repair and maintenance, and fireplaces. Our family-owned business proudly serves residents in various communities located in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Give us a call today to find out more or schedule an appointment.