When you think of air pollution, you probably envision giant industrial smokestacks belching out thick black smoke or a congested city highway with thousands of idling cars. But the truth is that air pollution has many sources and takes many forms. Indoor air pollution from cooking stoves and other sources can be as unhealthy as outdoor pollutants like car exhaust.
Air pollution occurs when substances such as dust particles, toxins, and dangerous gases are released into the air. These pollutants come from natural and human-made sources. Natural sources include windblown dust, forest fires, and emissions of volatile organic compounds from plants. Human-made sources include burning fossil fuels for energy, manufacturing processes, and chemical-based products like aerosol cans and paint.
What Is Indoor Air Pollution?
Indoor air pollution is the accumulation of harmful pollutants and particles in indoor spaces. These pollutants range from dust and pollen to more dangerous contaminants such as mold spores and toxic chemicals.
Household items like cleaning products, aerosol sprays, and candles contribute to indoor air pollution. Poor indoor air quality can cause adverse health effects, particularly for vulnerable populations like children, older adults, and individuals with respiratory conditions. Understanding the sources of indoor air pollution and reducing exposure improves the health and well-being of occupants.
Causes of Indoor Air Pollution
Poor ventilation affects indoor air quality because of minimal or improper air circulation. It leads to accumulating carbon monoxide, VOCs, and air-borne particulate matter. When these pollutants are breathed in by household members, it can lead to respiratory problems and headaches. Invest in exhaust fans and proper ventilation systems to improve indoor air quality. In addition, changing out your HVAC air filters regularly will ensure unrestricted airflow through your heating and cooling systems.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew are common indoor air pollutants in spaces with high humidity and little airflow. These biological pollutants thrive in damp conditions like bathrooms and basements. They discolor surfaces and produce unpleasant odors and the spores they emit can cause respiratory issues. Keep areas clean, dry, and well-ventilated to reduce the growth of mold and mildew. If things like carpets or rugs get wet, you may have to have them professionally cleaned or discard them to prevent mold and mildew from taking hold.
Tiny dust mites and particles linger around the home, polluting indoor air more than in some outdoor environments. Dust and things like pet dander can aggravate the symptoms of household members with respiratory issues. While it may seem daunting, simple measures like using a vacuum with a HEPA filter and wiping down countertops and furniture go a long way toward creating a healthier indoor environment.
Chemicals and Pesticides
Chemicals and pesticides in everyday household items cause indoor air pollution. Although these substances keep our homes clean and free of pests, they also off-gas and affect our health. Many of these chemicals are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), adversely affecting respiratory health and contributing to cancer development over time. Choose natural, non-toxic alternatives whenever possible and store chemicals in well-sealed containers. When using chemical cleaning solutions and pesticides, ensure the house is well-ventilated to reduce VOC accumulation.
Combustion sources, such as wood-burning stoves and gas appliances, emit harmful particles that compromise indoor air quality. Carbon monoxide, soot, and ash are among the most concerning because of their adverse effects on human health.
Proper ventilation during use reduces their impact on indoor air quality. It is crucial never to burn materials not intended for fireplaces, as doing so can release even more hazardous particles into the air.
Why Indoor Air Pollution is Worse Than Outdoor Pollution
Indoor air pollution is more dangerous than outdoor air pollution due to the confined and concentrated environment in a home or business. Outside, rain cleanses the atmosphere of dust and washes its way into larger bodies of water. In addition, winds carry pollutants away from the source and provide fresh air that dilutes contaminants. Indoors, a home may not be well-ventilated, there is no natural washing mechanism, and there are many sources of gases and air-borne particulate matter that lower air quality.
Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality on Your Health
Indoor air pollutants pose an array of health risks to humans. Exposure results in immediate or long-term health effects. Exposure to air pollution causes respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and can trigger asthma attacks. It also irritates the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. In some instances, the deleterious effects of indoor air pollutants may manifest themselves years after exposure. Exposure to indoor pollutants for an extended period has serious long-term health consequences, such as an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and chronic lung disease. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, allergies, or compromised immune systems may experience more severe effects from poor indoor air quality.
How to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution
Ventilate Your Home
Opening windows and using fans to circulate fresh air removes stale, polluted air and brings fresh outdoor air. Ventilation is crucial in modern, airtight homes that trap air particulates. It also regulates the temperature and humidity levels in your home.
Ban Smoking Indoors
Smoking is a major contributor to indoor air pollution, which releases over 70 cancer-causing chemicals into the air. This dangerous practice affects the smoker and the people around them. Banning smoking in the house reduces the exposure of our loved ones to second-hand smoke. Tertiary smoking has been linked to asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease.
Avoid Burning Candles, Incense, or Scented Materials Indoors
Many people rely on candles, incense, and other scented materials to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Though they may be pleasant to smell, the smoke and particulate matter they release can be harmful to breathe. This is especially concerning for people with asthma, allergies, or compromised respiratory systems. Instead, try using essential oil diffusers, natural air fresheners, or opening a window to let fresh air in.
Wash Your Pets Regularly
Your pets’ shedding and dander can accumulate in your carpets and furniture, contributing to poor indoor air quality. A straightforward solution to this problem is to wash your pets often. Doing so can reduce the amount of pet dander and hair in your home, leading to cleaner and healthier air.
Install Quality Air Filters and Ventilation Systems
Indoor air contains pollutants from many sources, such as cooking, cleaning products, and outdoor pollution that make their way inside. High-quality HVAC air filters trap much of these harmful pollutants, while a proper ventilation system brings in and circulates fresh air. It is recommended to consult with professionals to determine the appropriate air filter for your HVAC system. A professional can also work with you to install the best ventilation system for your home or workplace.
Improve Your Indoor Air Quality Today
If you have concerns about indoor air quality in your home, contact Air Authority, A Riteway Service Company for an indoor air quality test. One of our qualified technicians will assess your home’s air quality and let you know what can be done to improve it if needed.
In addition to providing indoor air quality services we install, repair and maintain heating and cooling systems. We also offer maintenance plans and provide commercial HVAC services. Contact Air Authority, A Riteway Service Company today to schedule an appointment with one of our HVAC professionals.