According to the World Health Organization, over four million people die each year from exposure to indoor air pollutants. Considering Americans spend nearly ninety percent of their lives indoors, this is cause for concern. Women and young children are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of indoor air pollution. Many of us do not realize when our indoor air quality is poor until we start to notice its effects on our health. So, what are indoor air pollutants? How do they affect your health? How can you protect yourself and your family? Read on to find out the answers to these questions.
What Are Indoor Air Pollutants?
When we think about air pollution, most of us tend to think of the outdoors. This is because outdoor air pollutants often come together to form smog, which is much more visible than the nearly imperceptible indoor contaminants that contribute to poor indoor air quality. Indoor air pollution is just as dangerous for our health, though. Studies show that the contamination of indoor air can be between two and five time worse than that of outdoor air. What are these contaminants? The following are some common indoor air pollutants.
Dust: Dust is formed by the accumulation of dirt, dead skin cells, carpet fiber, etc. It can build up in your HVAC filters over time if you do not regularly change them. This leads to poor ventilation in your home or office, making you more likely to experience allergies and dust mites.
Moisture: The accumulation of moisture in your home or office can lead to a number of health dangers. Mold and mildew thrive in moist environments and can cause respiratory issues such as shortness of breath and allergic reactions.
Radon: Radon is a radioactive gas that comes up from ground. This gas can seep through your foundation and into your home, especially if it has a basement or crawlspace. Because radon is odorless, you won’t know when it is coming into your home and affecting your health. This gas is a major cause of lung cancer in the United States.
Combustion Products: Gas-powered appliances (furnaces, stoves, water heaters, dryers, etc.) can release toxic combustion products into your home. An example of one such toxic product is carbon dioxide. If inhaled, these toxins in your indoor air can be fatal.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Some synthetic materials in your home emit harmful byproducts into the air. Furniture and building materials in your home or office can release formaldehyde, pesticides, and other toxic evaporated substances. At certain concentrations, these fumes can cause you to experience headaches and nausea, and they can even inflict damage to your liver, kidneys, and nervous system.
How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect Your Health?
Many of the symptoms of indoor air pollution are similar to common cold or allergy symptoms, and for this reason can often be misdiagnosed. Any amount of exposure to indoor air pollutants can have an effect on your health. Some of the most common symptoms of poor indoor air quality include: sneezing, sore throat, coughing, headache, dizziness, watery eyes, fatigue, congestion. The more frequent your exposure to indoor air pollutants, the more aggravated your symptoms will be become. These health effects are worsened in individuals with respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic bronchitis.
Short exposures to indoor air pollution are not immediate threats to your health. However, long-term exposure to poor indoor air quality can lead to worse health effects than just headaches or allergic reactions. It can cause your judgment and cognition to become impaired. You can also experience deadly consequences. Indoor air pollution has been linked to lung disease, heart disease, and cancer after extended exposure.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Indoor Air Pollution?
You can take preventative steps to protect yourself and your family from experiencing the harmful effects of poor indoor air quality. Here are some of the most effective ways to reduce indoor air pollution:
- Improve your ventilation system. You should routinely schedule HVAC maintenance with an HVAC specialist to make sure your ventilation system is working properly. Regularly replace your air filters so that they do not become clogged with dust, as this prevents ventilation. You can also request your HVAC specialist to install high-efficiency air filters, which are better at filtering indoor air pollutants out of the air in your home or office. Make sure there is an exhaust fan present in the areas of your home that experience lots of moisture and where you use combustion products, such as your kitchen and bathroom. Exhaust fans reduce moisture and pull toxic combustion products out of the air, improving your indoor air quality.
- Pay close attention to your combustion products. Make sure all of your combustion products (stoves, furnaces, water heaters, dryers, etc.) are working the way they should be and are ventilating properly by inspecting them regularly. Try to limit your use of combustion products to keep your indoor air as pure as possible.
- Prevent radon exposure. You should use radon detectors to see if radon is leaking into your home or office. Radon control devices are easy to install and can prevent radon from polluting your indoor air. These devices typically include a PVC pipe and fan that direct radon into the atmosphere instead of into your home or office.
Improve Indoor Air Quality with an HVAC Company in East Tennessee
Do you have concerns about your indoor air quality? City Heating and Air Conditioning is a trusted HVAC company in East Tennessee that has been providing quality HVAC services for over 50 years. We can inspect your HVAC system and your home or office and perform air testing to determine your indoor air quality. Our experienced HVAC specialists can update your ventilation system and recommend other ways to reduce your indoor air pollution. We can also help you with your regular HVAC maintenance and any repairs that your system needs. If you want to improve the air quality of your home or office, reach out to us today at 865-938-1005 or online to schedule a consultation!