Clean air inside of your home is good for your health and well-being. Learn the most common culprits of poor indoor air quality and how you can solve these issues.
When you think about air pollution, what do you picture? City smog? A freeway clouded with vehicle emissions? Smoke billowing from factories? You probably don’t picture your own living room, but maybe you should. That’s because the air in your home may be a problem without you even realizing it.
According to the American Lung Association, indoor air quality can be even more polluted than outside air. As a homeowner, you want to ensure that your family and friends are breathing clean air when they are inside your home, especially the very young, the very old, or anyone who might suffer from asthma or other lung issues.
What can cause poor indoor air quality? There are many factors, but here are some of the most common culprits:
- Smoke from tobacco use. At WebMD.com, Philip Landrigan, MD, a pediatrician and director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, says that secondhand cigarette smoke is probably the single most important aspect of indoor air pollution.
- Some chemicals, paints, and solvents, as well as some building materials, may have emissions that can compromise air quality. If you’ve recently had new construction done to your home, new carpet laid, or if you live in an older home that may have lead paint or asbestos, your home’s air quality may suffer.
- Radon exposure can be dangerous to smokers and non-smokers
, and is linked to cancer. Radon gas occurs naturally , and can be found anywhere in the country.
- Pets can even affect indoor air quality. Pet dander, as well as saliva and waste, can trigger allergies in some people as well as asthma, sinus problems, and upper respiratory infections.
- Some pests, such as cockroaches, can trigger allergies and even asthma, as can microscopic dust mites.
- Improper ventilation can trap air pollutants of all types inside the home. Without proper air circulation, inside humidity can also rise, leading to moisture problems.
Some of the effects of indoor air pollution can include allergic reactions, breathing problems, such as asthma, irritated eyes and throat, headaches, fatigue, and increased respiratory infections, among other symptoms. People inside a home with poor indoor air quality may also notice stale or unpleasant odors.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to breathe easier in your home. Here are some simple steps you can take to improve indoor air quality:
- Make your house a “No Smoking” area. Do not allow smoking inside your home under any circumstances to avoid the hazardous effects of secondhand smoke.
- Change the air filters in your heating and cooling system regularly, per your manufacturer’s instructions. Purchase air filters in bulk so you always have some on hand when it’s time to replace them.
- Make sure your home has adequate ventilation and good air circulation. When weather allows, open windows to let indoor air pollution out and fresh air in.
- Fix any leaks promptly, and watch for signs of water damage to avoid mildew and mold. After a hot bath or steamy shower, be sure to run the exhaust van in the bathroom to reduce moisture buildup. If you live in a humid climate or if your home routinely has high levels of humidity, consider installing a dehumidifier in your home.
- Pay attention to any unusual or unpleasant odors in your home, and try to track down the source as soon as possible.
- Clean frequently, especially if you have pets. Vacuum, dust, and wet mop floors on a regular basis. Take pets outdoors to brush them.
- To avoid pests, don’t leave uncovered food out and clean up food crumbs and scraps as soon as possible. If you see persistent signs of pests, especially cockroaches, call pest control professionals for help.
- Have your home tested for radon.
If you or someone in your home suffers from severe allergies or breathing problems, you might consider switching from commercial cleaning products to homemade solutions that don’t have as many potentially toxic ingredients. The addition of an indoor air cleaner or air purifier might also be beneficial for your home if you’re concerned about improving indoor air quality.