IAQ-Indoor Air Quality
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Understanding and controlling common pollutants indoors can help reduce your risk of indoor health concerns.Multiple test studies have proven that 90% of each persons day is spent indoors! Indoor air pollution may be as much or more of a problem as pollution outdoors, according to new research. From cooking residue to paints, varnishes and fungal spores, the air we breathe indoors is often more polluted than that outside, and can pose many health risks. Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later. In this case, education and prevention will be key prospects in aiding a positive solution for cleaner air!
The air inside your home may be polluted by lead (in house dust), formaldehyde, fire-retardants, radon, even volatile chemicals from fragrances used in conventional cleaners. Some pollutants are tracked into the home. Some arrive via a new mattress or furniture, carpet cleaners, or a coat of paint on the walls. In that mix, you’ll also find microscopic dust mites, a major allergen, plus mold and heaps of pet dander. If you happen to live in a home built before 1978, there’s a good chance that lead paint still exists on your walls.
Don’t forget about excessive moisture and mold spores!
How can moisture and mold impact health?
Dampness may show up in visible moisture, like leaks, or as high humidity. Dampness in homes or buildings creates the environment for mold spores to grow. Dampness can cause harm even when mold is not present. Excessive moisture also promotes the growth of dust mites, cockroaches, bacteria and viruses, which can impact health. Exposure to mold can trigger allergic reactions and asthma symptoms in people who are allergic to mold. However, even without mold, dampness indoors causes asthma attacks and other upper and lower respiratory problems. Anyone with or without allergies may experience irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs when exposed to airborne mold particles.3
Dampness and mold have been linked to many health conditions:
- Worsening of asthma
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
An uncommon disease known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis has been associated with exposure to indoor mold in people who have weakened immune systems.This disease creates flu-like symptoms that may recur.
- The best way to control dampness and mold indoors is to control the sources of moisture. That means preventing the problem from developing as well as fixing new problems quickly. Common problem areas include air-conditioning units; basements, attics and crawl spaces; bathrooms; humidifiers and dehumidifiers; and refrigerator drip pans.
- Keep indoor humidity levels below 50 percent.
- Fix all leaks.
- Increase air movement and ventilation.
- Run exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen to reduce moisture.
- Keep appliance drip pans clean.
- Regularly and thoroughly clean places where molds are likely to grow.
Watch out for these signs to identify a dampness problem:
- Musty odors may be a result from excessive moisture or even a mold issue.
- Moisture on hard surfaces may even be the result of these odors as well. (Be sure to wipe and dry up and liquid residuals on hard surfaces!)
- Water stains that signify water leaks or condensation.
- Don’t over water houseplants.
- Vent the clothes dryer to the outside.
- Fix leaky plumbing to prevent moisture loving mold.
- Empty drip pans in your window air conditioner and dehumidifier.
Dust mites and mold love moisture. Keeping humidity around 30%-50% helps keep them and other allergens under control. A dehumidifier (and air conditioner during summer months) helps reduce moisture in indoor air and effectively controls allergens. An air conditioner also reduces indoor pollen count another plus for allergy sufferers.
Use an exhaust fan or crack open a window when cooking, running the dishwasher, or bathing.
Keeping up good practices may be challenging at first, but can be both a financial and health benefit. Damage caused by moisture can range into thousands of dollars in repairs and can often result in many different pest problems. Keep these simple procedures in mind to reduce such a disaster!
Building Materials and Health and VOC’s
New construction or remodeling materials may emit fumes or dust that can endanger your health. Older building materials can release indoor air pollutants when disturbed or removed.
Building materials, like plywood, furniture and other pressed-wood products, often contain chemicals that give off gases and odors as the materials age. These products can give off formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the indoor air. Using several products at the same time may mix several different chemical fumes in the same indoor space.
Paints, adhesives, solvents, polishes, carpeting and cleaning products also can emit VOCs, formaldehyde, benzene and other toxic chemicals as they age.
“Chinese drywall” is a term for problem drywall installed in buildings along the Gulf Coast states and in Virginia. Most of these homes had new drywall installed between 2001 and 2009. Some people who installed that drywall have reported health problems such as coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, headaches and fatigue. Federal agency investigations found the drywall from China gave off high levels of hydrogen sulfide indoors.
Laminate flooring manufactured in China between 2012 and 2014 also tested as emitting high levels of formaldehyde in recent investigations. Reportedly, that flooring is no longer sold in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends several steps to reduce exposure including opening windows and using exhaust fans.
Whether you have a new or old home, you could have a radon problem. This colorless, odorless gas significantly raises the risk of lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
Radon is a radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground and into your home through cracks and holes in the foundation. Drafty homes, airtight homes, homes with or without a basement any home can potentially have a radon problem.
Granite countertops have also been linked to radon. While experts agree that most granite countertops emit some radon, the question is whether they do so at levels that can cause cancer. Testing is easy, inexpensive, and takes only a few minutes. If you discover a radon problem, there are simple ways to reduce levels of the gas that are not too costly. Even high radon levels can be reduced to acceptable levels. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a “Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction.”
Ways To Reduce Indoor Air Pollutants
Chemicals and allergens can accumulate in household dust for decades. By using a vacuum with a HEPA filter you can reduce concentrations of lead in your home. You can also get rid of other toxins, like brominated fire-retardant chemicals (PBDEs) as well as allergens like pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. (Be sure to wear the proper respirator when cleaning up these toxins!)
Using a vacuum cleaner that has strong suction, rotating brushes, and a HEPA filter ensures that dust and dirt won’t get blown back out in the exhaust. unfortunately ordinary vacuums will cycle toxins back into the air. It is important to pay close attention to high traffic areas, vacuum the same spot several times. Don’t forget walls, carpet edges, and upholstered furniture, where dust accumulates. For best results, vacuum two or more times each week and wash out your filter regularly for the best results.
Put a large floor mat at every door. People and pets track in all sorts of chemicals via the dirt on their shoes/paws. A door mat reduces the amount of dirt, pesticides, and other pollutants from getting into your home. If the mat is big enough, even those who don’t wipe their shoes will leave most pollutants on the mat and not the floors in your home.
Activated Bamboo Charcoal and Carbon Purifiers
Charcoal adsorbs odor and pollutant particles by trapping them while air or water flows through the pores, purifying the surrounding air or water in the process. Bamboo charcoal is four times more porous than regular wood charcoal, which significantly increases its effectiveness.
They are also capable of removing organic molecules, much like solvents. This is a very simple but effective means of neutralizing odors and trapping gases in the air of a space.
bamboo charcoal works to absorb unpleasant odors, remove bacteria, harmful pollutants and allergens, and dehumidify air. However, the most remarkable aspect of bamboo charcoal is its longevity. Safe for children and pets, bamboo charcoal can rejuvenate itself if placed in sunlight once a month, and can be reused for up to two years. Afterwards it can be used as a fertilizer. Activated carbon air purifiers work by utilizing charcoal, but this charcoal undergoes a simple process in order to make it usable for air purification. This type of filtration can absorb up to 60% of its weight in air pollutants. Activated bamboo charcoal air purifiers are both cost efficient and environmentally friendly! (Check out our other blog post on toxic air fresheners in your home!)