Accumulating scientific evidence has tied poor indoor air quality to various health effects. These effects may be experienced immediately after exposure or many years later. Some of the immediate effects include irritation of the nose, eyes, and throat. Dizziness, fatigue, and headaches are also common. These effects are often short-term and treatable.
The likelihood of an immediate reaction to indoor air pollutants depends on different factors, with pre-existing medical conditions and age being the two most common influences. In other cases, a person can react to pollutants depending on the sensitivity, which varies significantly from individual to individual. For example, some individuals can become sensitized to various biological air pollutants after repeated exposures. Some people can also become sensitized to chemical pollutants as well.
In our experience, poor indoor air quality can impact your health negatively. This is why you should pay attention to factors contributing to indoor air pollution in your home and address them.
Identifying Indoor Air Quality Problems
One way to identify indoor air quality issues is to note any health-related effects, particularly if they appear after you have treated your home with pesticides, remodeled, or moved to a new residence. Remember you should discuss such health effects with your doctor. It’s also important to consult with a certified allergist or specialist for answers to your health-related questions.
Another way to determine if your home has or can develop indoor air quality issues is to identify all potential indoor air pollution sources. While the presence of such sources may not mean you already have indoor air quality problems, being aware of the nature and number of these potential sources is a crucial step toward assessing the overall air quality in your home.
Also, you may want to check your lifestyle and activities to determine whether you have poor indoor air quality. Remember, your activities can significantly source your home’s indoor air pollution. Pay attention to any signs of poor ventilation in your home. These could include smelly or stuffy air, moisture condensation on walls or windows, growth of mold, and more.
Measuring Indoor Pollutant Levels
The Canadian government recommends that you measure or determine the radon level in your home. Without these measurements, there’s no way to tell if radon is present because it’s an odorless, radioactive, and colorless gas. In fact, there are affordable devices to measure radon. EPA also provides guidance regarding the risks associated with varying levels of exposure. Remember, mitigation techniques have proven effective in lowering radon levels in a home.
For indoor air pollutants besides radon, measurements are necessary when there are health symptoms, poor ventilation, or specific pollutants that have been identified as possible sources of indoor air quality issues. It’s crucial to mention that testing for air pollutants can be expensive. So before you start monitoring your indoor air quality for pollutants besides radon, consulting with professionals to solve indoor air quality issues in non-industrial properties is best.
Weatherize your home
Weatherizing homes reduces the amount of energy required for indoor heating and cooling. During weatherization, specific steps must be taken to reduce pollution from various sources inside your home. Additionally, home occupants must be alert to any signs of insufficient ventilation, such as moisture condensation on surfaces, stuffy air, mildew, and mold growth.
Remember, weatherization doesn’t cause indoor air issues by adding new pollutants into the indoor air. But there are a few exceptions, like caulking, which sometimes emits pollutants. Remember, measures such as weather stripping, installing storm windows, blown-in wall insulation, and caulking can reduce the amount of outdoor air that may be infiltrating your home. As a result, the concentration of indoor air pollutants from specific sources inside the home might increase after weatherization.
Basic Strategies to improve indoor air quality
The most effective way to improve your home’s indoor air quality is the pollution sources or minimize their emissions. Certain sources, such as ones that contain asbestos, can be enclosed or sealed. Other sources, such as gas stoves, can be carefully adjusted to lower the amount of emissions. It’s also possible to limit the use of scented products or cleaning products that are considered pollutants.
In most cases, pollution source control is a more cost-effective approach to ensure better indoor air quality than ventilation. This is because mechanical ventilation is more likely to increase energy-related costs than pollution source control.
Another effective approach to reducing indoor air pollutants is to increase the volume of outdoor air. Most indoor heating and cooling systems, like forced air heating systems, don’t mechanically bring more fresh air into the home. Operating attic or window fans, opening windows & doors, or running a window air conditioning could increase the outdoor ventilation.
Local kitchen or bathroom fans that exhaust outdoors often remove contaminants directly from the specific room where the fan is installed. This can help increase your home’s outdoor air ventilation rate. Note that taking these steps is important, particularly if you are currently involved in activities likely to generate high levels of pollutants. These activities could include paint stripping, painting, heating using kerosene heaters, or hobby activities that involve soldering, welding, or sanding.
In our experience, advanced home designs now feature mechanical systems that help bring enough outdoor air into the house. Some of those designs include energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators, commonly known as air-to-air heat exchangers.
You can find different types and sizes of air cleaners on the market today. These options range from affordable tabletop models to highly sophisticated, costly whole-house air cleaners. Note that some air cleaners are effective in particle removal while others are much less so. Remember, air cleaners are not designed to eliminate gaseous pollutants.