Improving Your Home Indoor Air Quality

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Indoor air quality plays a crucial role in the health and comfort of homeowners. Air quality can impact our health, comfort, and overall well-being. With the increasing amount of time spent indoors, it has become increasingly important to pay attention to the air quality in our homes. 

Poor indoor air quality can lead to various health problems, such as respiratory issues, headaches, and fatigue. Good indoor air quality can contribute to a healthier, happier, and more comfortable life. It is essential for homeowners to take proactive steps to improve indoor air quality, such as regularly ventilating the home, using air purifiers, avoiding indoor pollutants, and maintaining proper moisture levels.

The importance of indoor air quality

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors and can lead to serious health problems if not properly managed. In order to minimize the risk of asthma symptoms, the World Asthma Foundation recommends maintaining indoor air quality.

One of the key recommendations is to eliminate sources of indoor air pollution, such as tobacco smoke, household cleaning products, and mold. The Foundation also suggests regularly ventilating your home, using air purifiers, and reducing the use of chemical-based cleaning products.

Additionally, the World Asthma Foundation recommends avoiding using pesticides and insecticides in the home, as these chemicals can irritate the respiratory system and trigger asthma symptoms. If you have pets, it is important to keep them clean and well-groomed to reduce dander and other allergens in the air.

It is also important to maintain a clean and organized home. Dust, dirt, and clutter can trap allergens and irritants in the air, exacerbating asthma symptoms. Regular cleaning and vacuuming can help to reduce these triggers.

Finally, it is recommended to be aware of the weather conditions and temperature changes, as these can also affect indoor air quality. Keeping your home cool and well-ventilated during hot weather, and avoiding exposure to extreme cold, can help to minimize the risk of asthma symptoms.

In conclusion, maintaining indoor air quality is a critical aspect of managing asthma. By following the World Asthma Foundation’s recommendations, you can reduce the risk of asthma symptoms and improve your overall respiratory health.

Alan at World Asthma Foundation

How can indoor air quality be improved?

Since we spend close to 90% of our time indoors, it just makes good sense to manage your indoor air quality. Here are some ideas for maintaining a healthy indoor environment.

  • Maintain your HVAC system. Whole home systems need to be regularly cleaned, so they function as efficiently as possible. This includes making sure dehumidification is on track.
  • Using Natural Ventilation. When possible open windows and doors to let nature ventilate your home.
  • Source Reduction. When remodeling, it is paramount to select products that are as safe as possible. This includes products touted as zero VOC and, just as importantly, products that are zero HAP’s (hazardous air pollutants). HAP’s are not yet regulated, so make sure you ask your suppliers whether the products under consideration are HAP’s free.
  • Don’t Rush the Re-modeling. Give yourself ample time to source, and if you are allergic or chemically sensitive, test each product you plan to incorporate. This includes spending time identifying qualified contractors who understand your concerns and are open to using the products you specify. This often means getting samples to the team so they can familiarize themselves with the products, as many times you will be introducing them to ones with which they aren’t familiar. Allowing enough lead time for this reaps rewards once the project gets underway.

Jay Watts, Vice President at AFM Safecoat

What are some signs of poor indoor air quality?

Signs of poor indoor air quality in your home can include mold or mildew around your air vents or walls. This could be black mold and can significantly degrade the air quality in your home and adversely affect your health. Other signs include if you have difficulty breathing in your home or have coughing or wheezing or if you smell musty odors in your home. If you have layers of dust on your furniture or belongings, this would be a sign of poor indoor air quality as well as that would be an indication of dust in the air.

Sara at Confessions of a Cleaning Lady

The most common indoor air pollutants

  • Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of respiration and a normal constituent of the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide measurement can indicate ventilation rates in a building and/or a threshold of comfort. 
  • Respirable dust is generally less than 10 micrometers in diameter and can significantly impact human health. Urban centers can have higher respirable dust, and we often rely on building filtration systems to help control these levels.
  • Volatile organic compounds are classes of organic chemical compounds (carbon) with high enough vapor pressures to exist as gases under average temperature and pressure conditions.
  • Mold includes all species of microscopic fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae, a common consequence of moisture-damaged material.
  • Carbon monoxide is a marker for the combustion of fossil fuels. It is a deadly, odorless gas with no warning properties—sourced to unvented appliances, boilers, and vehicles. 
  • Radon is a soil gas that can enter buildings and homes in the basements and lower levels. Radon gas is a carcinogen.

Mark Carpenter, Engineering Manager at UL Solutions

What is radon, and why is it a concern for indoor air quality?

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas from the earth’s natural decay of uranium in the soil. Radon enters a home or building through pores and cracks in the foundation and up under crawlspaces. 

Radon, measurable only by radon gas detection equipment, gets trapped indoors and builds up to levels higher than outdoors. (Normal outdoor levels ~ 0.4 pCi/L) The Uranium – Radon decay chain produces radioactive alpha particles that attach to dust or particulate matter that gets inhaled into the lungs. Long-term exposure to radon gas creates a higher potential for damaging DNA within the lungs and therefore creates a higher potential for developing lung cancer. The EPA estimates that radon causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths annually. 

Both the World Health Organization and the US Environmental Protection Agency suggest testing of homes, offices, schools, and healthcare facilities for radon gas and propose the following guidance: mitigate if homes test above 4.0 and consider mitigation for levels 2.0 or higher as there is no safe level of radon. 

Unfortunately, most homes and buildings are not tested for radon gas, and therefore individuals are unaware of the potential hazard. For this reason, SunRADON has developed a simple plug-in device called lüft. It measures radon as a long-term device. Lüft provides daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly reporting detailing fluctuations from daily living, seasonal weather patterns, or reconstruction projects that can affect radon levels beyond a short-term snapshot.

-Laura Armul, Director, Sales and Marketing at SunRADON

What should be done if dust levels in indoor air are causing health problems?

It is important to understand where dust in your home is coming from. Only by knowing where the dust is coming from, can you try to eliminate the problem.

Dust in your air ducts is a result of dust in your home. This dust may be skin, animal hair, dust from when your windows are open, or from taking your coat or clothes off when you come home. Dust and dirt, and debris can also enter your duct system during the new construction of your home or remodeling.

Having a thorough duct cleaning of your HVAC system is a great start if you have health concerns like allergies, sinus problems, or coughing while in your home. This eliminates the dust coming from your heating and cooling system. However, remember that the dust entered into your system via the cold air returns. The exception is construction dust and dirt. That would be eliminated via the cleaning.  

Here are some tips:

  • Keep windows closed.
  • Take coats off as soon as you enter the home
  • Keep your animals groomed as much as possible
  • Remove the carpet if possible, or go with washable rugs
  • Buy leather instead of cloth furniture

These are basic steps to eliminate dust. If you continue to have issues, you may want to have your home inspected for issues like mold or mildew growth.

– Wayne Johnson at Dust Doctors

Maintaining and cleaning HVAC systems

Air pollution can come from various sources, including cleaning products, building materials, and HVAC systems. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can play a significant role in indoor air quality, as poorly maintained HVAC systems can circulate dust, mold, and other allergens throughout the home. Ensure you change HVAC filters and clean ducts to remove any built-up dust or other contaminants. You can also have your HVAC system inspected by a professional to ensure that it’s operating efficiently and effectively.

Be cautious with products you use in your home

Another critical step in improving indoor air quality is to reduce the use of air pollution sources. For example, you can use natural cleaning products instead of chemical-based cleaners and choose building materials that emit fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds). You can also reduce indoor air pollution by avoiding the use of tobacco products and minimizing the use of products that emit fumes, such as paint and solvents.

How can you choose building materials for better indoor air quality?

When selecting building materials for improved indoor air quality, it is essential to consider the effects of different material characteristics on a building’s indoor air quality. Building materials like wood, plaster, steel, and earth play a vital role in reducing emissions and eliminating indoor air pollution.

Furthermore, decorative elements, accessories, all products, and other materials, such as candles, cleaning products, furniture, ventilation equipment, carpeting, and pets, can contribute to a building’s indoor air pollution. Untreated wood is ideal for creating clean air in the home because it doesn’t retain dust, dirt, or pollution. Its moisture-controlling feature balances humidity and lowers condensation.

Although purified sapwood is preferred, avoid wood treatments and finishes that emit pollutants. Certain plasterboards can reduce VOC emissions by up to 70%. When selecting accessories, products, and low-polluting materials to improve the air quality in your house, pay attention to the label. The mandatory labeling of indoor materials provides useful information on the level of pollution emissions. When working on a project, choose wood and products with an A+ rating.

It is necessary to consider the information in Environmental and Health Declaration Sheets and product labeling regarding volatile pollutant emissions. Improving indoor air quality is a public health concern, and the “trend” towards environmentally friendly building and decorating materials like wood is essential.

Jitendra Tiwari at Civil Lead

What are the benefits of hypoallergenic bedding?

The are many benefits of hypoallergenic bedding, as per the list below. Our eucalyptus bedding is naturally hypoallergenic, creating a much cleaner, more hygienic, and overall better sleeping environment.

Reduces allergens: Hypoallergenic bedding is designed to be free from allergens such as dust mites and mold, which can trigger allergies and asthma symptoms.

Improves sleep: Allergens can cause irritation and itching, leading to restless sleep. Hypoallergenic bedding provides a cleaner sleep environment which improves sleep quality.

Durability: Hypoallergenic bedding is often made of high-quality materials that are resistant to wear and tear, making it more durable and long-lasting.

Easy to care for: Hypoallergenic bedding is often machine-washable, making it easy to care for and keep clean.

Versatility: Hypoallergenic bedding is available in a variety of materials and styles, making it suitable for different climates and sleep preferences.

James Higgins at Ethical Bedding

Ventilating your home for air quality

In addition to reducing air pollution sources, it’s important to increase ventilation in your home or building. This can be done by opening windows, using exhaust fans, or installing a mechanical ventilation system. Increasing ventilation helps to remove indoor pollutants and bring in fresh air.

What is the role of ventilation in indoor air quality?

The role of ventilation in indoor air quality is vitally important. It helps to reduce the number of pollutants and contaminants present in our living spaces while also ensuring that fresh air is added to the environment. Without proper ventilation, the air inside buildings can become stale and polluted, reducing air quality and potentially leading to health issues for those who inhabit the space. By introducing mechanical ventilation systems such as HRVs (Heat Recovery Ventilators) and ERVs (Energy Recovery Ventilators), we can remove stale, polluted air from our living spaces and replace it with fresh new air from outside.

Chris Grubbs at IAQ Works

How can air purifiers improve your indoor air quality?

The term air purifiers has traditionally been used when referring to devices that filter the air of particle-based contaminants, which include dust, mold spores, and pet dander. Most of these filter devices use high-efficiency filters up to HEPA filter rating and can be very efficient at removing airborne suspended particles. 

It has long been known that human health can be impacted by exposure to particles; therefore, the theory of air purification lends well to a generalized statement that air purifiers can improve indoor air quality. However, not all purifiers are created equally, nor are these devices being used correctly, potentially resulting in a minimal beneficial impact to particle reduction.  

Effective filtration requires proper device sizing for the space you are concerned about, proper cleaning and maintenance of the device as well as locating the unit appropriately to maximize air circulation. All these parameters will be specified by the respective manufacturers. 

Today’s air purification industry also has added other technologies, including Charcoal Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) scrubbing, UV light, ionization, and many other purification possibilities.  

To select a proper air purification device, users need to have an understanding of the Indoor Air Quality matters of specific concern to them.

At IAQA, we have a resource page called “Find a Pro” that can link suppliers, consultants, or skilled trades to people seeking more information.

Dennis French at Indoor Air Quality Association

What is air quality testing, and why is it important?

An indoor air quality (IAQ) test can help determine if the air in your home can cause health problems. These health problems can range from asthma and allergies to migraines and more severe health issues. If you are experiencing any symptoms related to these health issues, it is important to get an air quality test to determine if your home’s air is poor. It is essential to improve your home’s air quality, even if you are not experiencing any symptoms. Our air quality inspector tests for

  • Particulate Matter (PM)
  • Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC)
  • Formaldehyde (HCHO)
  • Total Air Pollution Level

Rafat at NextDay Inspect

Control humidity and mold

An essential step in improving indoor air quality is controlling humidity levels. High humidity levels can lead to mold growth and other indoor air quality problems. You can use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent. This will help to prevent mold growth and reduce the risk of other indoor air quality issues. If you have concerns about mold in your home, you can have a qualified home inspector check it out. 

Remove allergens in the home

Creating an allergy-free environment is vital for those who suffer from allergies by regularly dusting and vacuuming to remove allergens and pollutants from surfaces and air. You can also use air filters and air purifiers to capture allergens and other pollutants. Additionally, planting air-purifying plants, such as peace lilies, spider plants, and English ivy, can help naturally remove air pollutants.

Most common health problems associated with indoor air pollution

Indoor air pollution can have serious effects on our health and well-being, especially for those who spend most of their time indoors. Some of the most common health problems associated with indoor air pollution include respiratory issues such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Exposure to indoor air pollutants can also cause chronic headaches, dizziness, and fatigue, as well as eye, nose, and throat irritation. These symptoms can be caused by various airborne pollutants such as radon, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter, mold, bacteria, and more.

Asthma and allergies are also commonly associated with indoor air pollution. These conditions can be worsened by exposure to indoor air pollutants like pet dander, pollen, and dust mites. Long-term exposure to indoor air pollution can also increase the risk of developing heart disease and other serious chronic health conditions. 

It is important to be aware of the potential health effects of indoor air pollution and to take steps to reduce exposure. This can include regular cleaning and ventilating indoor spaces, using high-efficiency air filters and air purifiers, and minimizing the use of harmful chemicals and products that release VOCs into the air.

Rachel Gendi, Marketing Director at Filter Factory

What should be done if indoor air quality is causing or worsening allergy symptoms?

If you find that your allergy symptoms are worsening indoors, it could be due to poor indoor air quality. There are a few steps that you can take to improve the air quality in your home and alleviate your allergy symptoms. 

One of the first things you can do is to pay attention to your bedding. Dust mites, which can be found in bedding, can trigger allergies. To reduce the number of dust mites in your bedding, you should wash your sheets, pillowcases, and blankets once a week and use hypoallergenic bedding, which inhibits mold bacteria and mite growth. You can also consider using allergen-proof covers for your pillows and mattresses. Another step you can take is to keep your home clean and free of dust and pet dander. Vacuuming and dusting regularly can help to reduce the amount of allergens in the air. You can also consider using an air purifier to filter out allergens from the air. Finally, it’s important to keep your home well-ventilated. Opening windows and using exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom can help improve your home’s air quality. By taking these steps to improve the air quality in your home, you can reduce your exposure to allergens and alleviate your allergy symptoms.

David Le Blanc at Olive + Crate

Maintaining a clean home and good indoor air quality is crucial for the health and well-being of all family members. By prioritizing indoor air quality, families can create a healthy and comfortable living environment that supports physical health. With a proper inspection and all the advice mentioned above, homeowners can ensure that the air inside their homes is safe and clean for themselves and their families.