What is Indoor Air Pollution?

What is Indoor Air Pollution?

When you think about the term “air quality” it may evoke an image of a deep grey, blanket of smog sitting over an industrial city. This image is, inevitably, an example of poor outdoor air quality. But, air pollution is not limited to the outdoors; indoor air pollution is a low-key hazard that affects most homes. Poor indoor air quality can lead to a myriad of mild to severe health effects. 

Fortunately, there are ways to improve indoor air quality in an effort to keep you and your family in tip-top health. First, it is important to understand what exactly indoor air pollution is, where it comes from, and the possible side effects of this silent killer. 

Let’s explore. 

What is Indoor Air Pollution?

An “air pollutant refers” to any contaminant present in the air. Air pollutants can contribute to outdoor air pollution (think: a smog filled sky or the black smoke escaping a car exhaust) and indoor air pollution, which exists in a home or building. 

Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

There are countless pollutants that can affect the air quality of your home. Even the most benign home activities can contribute to indoor air pollution, causing a potential health risk to you and your family. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are 13 common sources of indoor air pollution, which include: asbestos, biological pollutants, carbon monoxide, cookstoves, formaldehyde, lead, nitrogen dioxide, pesticides, radon, indoor particulate matter, secondhand smoke, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and wood smoke. 

Common sources of indoor air pollution include the following.

Now that you know the sources of indoor air pollution, what appliances, household products, home activities, and more can affect your home air quality? Here’s a non-exhaustive list of potential contributors to poor indoor air quality

  • Tobacco products
  • Insecticides, termiticides, rodenticides, and fungicides
  • Disinfectants
  • Building and remodeling materials (paint, lacquer, plywood, glue, insulation, and more). Note: VOCs released from building materials can pollute indoor air for up to 2 years after implementation. 
  • Mold and mildew from excess moisture
  • Fuel-burning appliances
  • Certain furnishings (newly installed flooring, upholstery, carpeting, cabinetry, and more)
  • Certain household cleaning products
  • Synthetic fragrances (perfumes, air fresheners, deodorizers, etc.)
  • Dry cleaned clothes are often returned home with the toxic chemicals trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene
  • Wax candles made with paraffin
  • Office appliances (laser printers, copiers, etc.)
  • Common crafting supplies (stationary, glue, graphics, correction fluid, etc.)

It is important to note that infrequent use of the aforementioned list does not equate to an immediate health hazard. The frequency and volume of the indoor air pollution emitted from the source is a key contributor to indoor air quality

Health Side Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air pollution can take a toll on your health, both in the short and long term. Even a brief exposure to indoor air pollution can have an immediate effect on your physical health, producing the following side effects:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Headaches
  • Light-headedness, dizziness, or faint-feeling
  • Exacerbated asthma or allergy symptoms
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms

Obviously, these symptoms are quite common and mirror the symptoms of countless illnesses or ailments, which makes the process of identifying your reaction to an indoor air pollutant particularly difficult. The best way to determine whether your symptoms are related to indoor air quality is to observe whether your symptoms dissipate upon leaving your home or any other dwelling. If your symptoms diminish or disappear immediately, you have an indoor air pollution problem. 

The side effects of poor indoor air quality include headache and fatigue.

The long term effects of poor indoor air quality can appear years after exposure (or repeated exposure) to indoor air pollution. The long term health effects of exposure to indoor air pollution can be severe or fatal and include: 

  • Cancer or increased risk of cancer
  • Respiratory disease
  • Heart disease
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Organ damage
  • Birth defects
  • Reproductive disorders

There are certain precautions you can take to avoid both short term and long term health effects of poor indoor air quality and insure your home air is healthy and prosperous for you and your family.

Tips to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution is an inevitable byproduct of living your life. Poor indoor air quality is often unintentional, yet completely avoidable if you commit to the following suggestions. 

Tip #1: Deep Clean Your Home Regularly

Deep cleaning your home, or having a professional cleaning crew deep clean your home, on a regular basis is an effective way to avoid biological pollutants, microbial volatile compounds, secondhand smoke, wood smoke, and more in your home. 

But, it is crucial to keep a keen eye on the ingredients in your cleaning products. Many cleaning products include toxic chemicals that can exacerbate poor air quality in your home. The EPA has a helpful resource for identifying safer choice cleaning products to reduce indoor air pollution.  

Tip #2: Open Windows Regularly

Open a window to help reduce air pollution in your home.

A bit of fresh air does your body, and your indoor air quality, some serious good.

Indoor air pollution can build, suffocating quality home air, without proper ventilation. Opening the windows in your home once per day or once every other day is a great way to release the pent-up pollutants in your home air and replace your home with a fresh dose of quality oxygen. 

Tip #3: Invest in an Air Purifier

If you stay on top of your home cleaning schedule and open your windows regularly to ventilate your home space, but you are still concerned about indoor air pollution, it may help put your mind at ease to introduce an air purifier into your home. 

Air purifiers work as air filtration systems, sucking home air into the device, trapping pollutants, and dispersing fresh air back into your home. There are many types of air purifying devices including True HEPA filters for your HVAC system or portable devices that can move from room to room as necessary. 

Tip #: Monitor Home Humidity Levels

Monitoring humidity levels in your home, both excess home humidity and insufficient home humidity, can make a world of a difference for your indoor air quality

When humidity levels are too high in your home, particularly during the summer months if you live in a humid climate, the excess moisture can create a breeding ground for mold and mildew, which release microbial volatile compounds into your home air. When humidity levels are too low, on the other hand, dust mites, bacteria, and viruses thrive, which can settle onto surfaces and accumulate as dust in the corners of your room, wafting into your home air when you turn on the air conditioner or heater. 

To reduce humidity levels in your home, you can follow our recommended dehumidifying tips or introduce a dehumidifier into your home if moisture levels are too high. If humidity levels are too low, a humidifier is the best way to elevate moisture levels to a sufficient level for optimal health and wellness. 

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