5 Facts You Should Know About Indoor Air Quality

5 Facts You Should Know About Indoor Air Quality

The EPA devotes a significant portion of their website to air quality and information about home indoor air pollutants. Check it out for a lot of detail, but for a starter, here are 5 Facts you should know about the quality of the air in your home and how it affects your health.

-1- Immediate Effects to Indoor Air Pollutant Exposure

IAQ, Indoor Air Quality, is an area of science and study that has become more important as homes and structures have become tighter in efforts to save energy. There are many effects on human health that are either caused or aggravated by IAQ problems. Immediate effects include:

  • Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat.
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

These are normally short-term effects and treatable. Chronic diseases, such as asthma, can be aggravated by these pollutants. This can be as simple as removing the person from the place of exposure. The level of exposure, age of the person, and preexisting conditions determine who is likely to have problems and how severe they may present.

As the effects of IAQ problems can be similar to a cold or other viral disease, the first goal is to determine if the symptoms are indeed caused by pollutants in the indoor air. If they are, the first thing to do is to remove the person from the area. Then the identification of pollutants can guide in the best approaches to removing them.

-2- Long Term Effects

Some effects of indoor air pollution can take years to appear, often after long and repeated exposure to the polluted air. Effects such as heart disease, respiratory diseases, and cancer are possible long-term exposure results. There are variables that make identification and measuring of concentration and exposure durations difficult. They include peoples’ different reactions to the pollutants, as well as their other health issues that can complicate identification and quantification of pollutants.

-3- Pollutant Sources

There are many materials that can release gases or particles into the air in your home, and sometimes multiple sources are identified in the home. Today’s tighter construction can aggravate the problems by allowing the buildup of concentrations. Among the most common sources of indoor air pollution are:

  • Tobacco products
  • Household cleaning products
  • Maintenance products
  • Personal care products
  • Hobby materials
  • Excess moisture
  • Contamination in heating, air conditioning, or air cleaning equipment
  • Building materials and furnishings, including:
    • Insulation containing asbestos
    • Pressed wood constructed furnishings or building products
    • New flooring, upholstery, or carpet
  • Outdoor sources infiltrating the home:
    • Pesticides
    • Radon
    • Air pollution

Depending on the source, the pollutants may be released or may infiltrate continuously or only during certain activities.

-4- Inadequate Ventilation

In decades past, and when energy was less expensive, homes were built with looser fitting components, especially doors and windows. There was plenty of infiltration of outdoor air which helped to keep indoor air refreshed and replaced at regular intervals. With today’s much tighter construction and sealing of infiltration points, air is trapped in the home, and the pollutants are concentrated over time.

-5- Outdoor Air Entry and Indoor Air Replacement

Outdoor air enters and leaves a structure through infiltration, natural ventilation, and mechanical ventilation. As already mentioned, infiltration happens around windows and doors primarily. It can also infiltrate through other openings, cracks and joints in walls, supports, around plumbing and other structure components.

Natural ventilation is through opened doors and windows and can make the milder weather months healthier if the problems are from indoor air pollutants. On the opposite, if outdoor air pollution is a problem, it would be worse in those periods.

Mechanical ventilation is some type of passive air passage that intentionally introduces outdoor air, while fans or blowers are also used to force more outdoor air into or out of the structure. These can be exhaust fans in bathrooms or kitchens, or even blowers to introduce outdoor air into a heating and cooling system, most often in commercial buildings.

These basic IAQ, Indoor Air Quality, facts should help you to begin to identify any problems you may have in your home, and you can then find the right solutions for comfort and good health.