How is the Air Quality in Your Home?
You do your best to make sure the house is clean and tidy, but you’re probably missing something.
We tend to think of air pollution as something outside: smog, ozone, or haze hanging in the air, especially in summer. But the truth is, the air inside homes, offices, and other buildings can be more polluted than the air outside.
The air inside your home may be polluted by lead (in house dust), radon, even volatile chemicals from fragrances used in conventional cleaners. Some pollutants are tracked into the home, and some arrive via a new mattress or furniture, carpet cleaners, or a coat of paint on the walls.
“In that mix, you’ll also find microscopic dust mites, a major allergen, plus mold and pet dander,” says Edward McFarlane, vice president of sales and training at Haller Enterprises. “Even if you don’t have pets, you may have pet dander,” says McFarlane. “It’s what we call a community allergen. Pet owners carry it around on their clothes and shed it throughout the day. You can’t get away from it.”
Children, people with asthma, and the elderly may be especially sensitive to indoor pollutants, but other effects on health may appear years later, after repeated exposure.
Indoor allergens and irritants have become much more important in recent decades because we’re spending more time indoors, McFarlane continues. And because modern homes are airtight, these irritants can’t easily escape.
“We’re all exposed to a greater degree than we were three or four decades ago,” he says.
Ninety percent of homes have shown indoor air quality issues,* and the EPA ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental health risks.
Some common indoor air pollutants that can be found within your home can include:
Molds and Other Allergens
These biological chemicals can arise from a variety of hosts, but there are two common classes: moisture-induced growth of mold colonies and natural substances released into the air, such as animal dander and plant pollen.
Moisture buildup inside buildings may arise from water penetrating compromised areas of the building, from plumbing leaks, from condensation due to improper ventilation, or from ground moisture penetrating a building part.
One of the most acutely toxic indoor air contaminants is carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless gas that is a byproduct of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels.
Common sources of carbon monoxide are space heaters, fossil fuels, defective central heating furnaces, and automobile exhaust. Indoor levels of CO are systematically improving due to increasing implementation of smoke-free laws.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to 10 times higher) than outdoors.
VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products including: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, and furnishings.
So What Can You Do to Improve Indoor Air Quality?
“Our trained technicians can safely remove these harmful contaminants, allowing you and your family to breathe clean, fresh air,” says McFarlane, whose company serves the South-Central Pennsylvania region. “Our process does not use any chemicals and does not raise any dust in your home. We have seen duct work that contained up to 4 inches of dust, debris, and micro-organic matter!”
Most of the dust that enters your home stays … and a lot of it can be found in your duct system. Store-bought filters trap less than 7 percent of this pollution, allowing 93 percent of it to flourish and cause coughing, sneezing, allergic reactions, throat infections, asthma attacks, skin irritations, and headaches.
The concern for pure indoor air quality is not only associated with older homes. Newer homes also have air-quality problems. The tighter the home and the newer the carpets, walls, ceilings and floors — the more contaminants are released into the air. Viruses and bacteria are trapped in the energy-efficient home as well.
Top 10 Reasons to Have Air Ducts Cleaned
- Installation of a new high-efficiency heating and cooling system—you don’t want to blow dirt and debris through a new coil
- Aggravated allergy or asthma symptoms
- Pet dander accumulation
- Reduction of interior dust
- Ducts and furnace have been inactive for two or more years
- Rodent or other pest infiltration
- Microbial growth inside
- Odors from ducts or furnace
- A video inspection shows dirt and debris in ducts
- Routine maintenance to improve indoor air quality
McFarlane concludes: “Our customers’ health and safety is of the upmost importance to us, so the duct cleaning services by our highly trained, expert technicians are a perfect way to make sure the families in our communities are able to breathe easier and healthier in their homes.” BW
*Air Advice State of Our Indoor Air Report 2007. †CDC Fast Stats from Summary Health Statistics for U.S. National Health Interview Survey, 2004.