There are some cleaning and maintenance steps to ensure your house is a safe home. However, the quality of the air inside can be difficult to determine. If you are looking for ways to freshen up your home and promote a healthy environment for you and your family, discover everything you need to know about indoor air quality. Learn how you can enjoy fresh, clean air year-round.
From simple, everyday steps to professional cleaning and removal of dangerous components, there are many strategies you can take to improve the air in your home. The exact steps depend on the quality of your indoor air and any sources of pollutants. After learning about the importance of cleaner indoor air and common issues related to poor air quality, discover key ways you can maintain a healthy, safe home.
Understanding Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality, also known as IAQ, is a term used to describe the quality of air in a home or other building. It is particularly used by organizations like the EPA when determining the health risks of indoor air and common pollutants. There are many dangerous particles that can be inhaled, so it is important to learn more about your air quality to protect you and your loved ones.
What can harm your IAQ? Many outdated building materials and other harsh chemicals produce substances known as volatile organic compounds. VOCs are gases that are emitted from a variety of liquids and solids, so you may not notice their presence in your home. A buildup of VOCs is linked with poor indoor air quality and all the dangers associated with it. Here are just a few common sources of VOCs in your home:
- Aerosol sprays
- Disinfectants and cleaners
- Pesticides and moth repellents
- Tobacco smoke
- Wood preservatives
- Paints, solvents, and paint strippers
- Artificial air fresheners
Thankfully, these VOC factors are preventable. Once you determine the causes of poor indoor air quality in your home, it’s easy to find safe, healthy alternatives. Switching out your air fresheners, cleaners, sprays and moth repellent options can all go a long way to improving the health of you and your family. You can still enjoy fresh, pleasing fragrances without resorting to products that reduce your air quality with harmful VOCs.
Also, additives that you or a previous owner may have brought into your home, building materials can also affect your indoor air quality. Lead-based paint, asbestos, mold and other contaminants and harmful materials are all associated with an increase in VOCs.
Radon is a particularly dangerous IAQ issue. Radon is an odorless gas, so it can be difficult to know whether it is in your home. However, higher levels are linked with lung cancer; in fact, among nonsmokers, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer. Whether you use a professional or DIY radon test, testing your home is an important way to determine the overall health effects of your indoor air quality.
Most indoor air quality testing materials are available for personal use. However, it can be unreliable to perform your own IAQ test. For better results, consider hiring a professional to conduct a test. This is the most reliable way to determine where your air quality stands.
It’s important to continue to have IAQ inspections. New VOCs may be entering your home from new contaminants, so only regular inspections can reveal these additional indoor air quality issues. Some issues, like radon, can change over time. Without continued testing, you may not notice a change in your air quality until it is too late. Ask a professional about the best testing schedule for your home.
Dangers of Poor Air Quality
Unfortunately, there are many short-term and long-term health effects related to poor indoor air quality. Consider these health issues and do not wait to have your air tested to find ways to improve your air quality. Some of these effects may be difficult to notice, while others are more obvious and hazardous to your health.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology estimates that 50% of illnesses are caused by issues with indoor air quality. Poor IAQ is estimated to have caused up to six sick days for every 10 workers. The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that cases of asthma were reduced by up to 60% by cleaning indoor air and preventing contaminants in homes.
Immediate effects of reduced indoor air quality are more likely to be noticed. If you notice one or more of these symptoms, move to a better-ventilated area and consider ways to improve your air quality:
- Eye, throat and nose irritations
When such symptoms first appear, moving to fresh air is typically effective to stop them. However, individuals with a history of breathing issues or asthma may have a more difficult time reducing or ending these symptoms.
In addition, some VOCs may not be apparent in short-term exposure but can still contribute to long-term health effects. Don’t assume that a lack of short-term symptoms means that your home has safe levels of VOCs; consider scheduling a professional inspection and air quality test to be sure.
With longer exposure to poor indoor air quality, you may develop cold-like symptoms. A runny nose, difficulty breathing, harsh cough and other symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor but may be signs of VOC buildup in your home.
Over time, these pollutants become even more harmful to your health. Years of exposure to high levels of VOCs and overall poor indoor air quality has been associated with heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and other adverse health effects.
Symptoms of short-term and long-term exposure to VOCs vary dramatically between individuals. Do not assume that your entire family will experience the same symptoms. Your home may have high levels of VOCs even if you don’t see any visible, short-term symptoms. It’s best to schedule a professional IAQ assessment to identify potential VOC buildup in your home and find ways to improve your indoor air quality.
Preventing VOC Buildup
There are many ways to improve your air quality after it has been affected by VOC buildup. However, there are also a few ways that you can prevent any buildup from happening. This can prevent exposure from occurring in the first place and keep you and your family safe.
The easiest way to prevent exposure is to change your cleaning and air freshening routine. VOCs come from many different sources, but the majority in homes are caused by cleaning, disinfecting and air freshening products. Ditch products with harsh chemicals and switch to natural cleaners and air fresheners. You’ll still enjoy a fresh scent and clean home, and you’ll prevent your air from being polluted by harmful aerosols and other VOCs.
Other ways to prevent VOCs from entering your air include professional inspections and cleaning services. Lead-based paint, radon, mold and asbestos may all be hidden in your home and slowly leaking VOCs into your air. A professional inspection can identify any of these harmful materials and safely, thoroughly clean your home.
Mold emits VOCs, and any amount of mold in your home can quickly grow and emit spores that affect your indoor air quality. Not all molds produce toxic spores, but even less harmful varieties can decrease the overall health of your indoor air. Individuals with asthma or allergies can be particularly susceptible to mold issues. Look for fungal growth in areas with high humidity levels.
Mold is commonly caused by excess moisture in your home. Dripping pipes, improperly ventilated bathrooms, leaks in your roof line and other issues can all encourage mold growth in your home. Once this fungus begins to grow, it can quickly spread over porous surfaces. Drywall, carpet and wood are particularly common areas of moldy growth.
Top Ways To Improve Your Air Quality
Now that you know the dangers of poor air quality and ways to prevent air pollutants, find out how to improve air quality in home. There are three basic methods:
- Increase ventilation
- Reduce VOC sources
- Use air cleaning products
Each of these strategies have their own pros and cons. The most effective way to enjoy a fresh, clean home is to combine all three strategies. Compare each strategy to see for yourself how you can improve the air quality of your home without dramatic changes.
Modern homes are designed to be extremely energy efficient. One way they achieve this is an almost air-tight seal. This design helps keep cool air in the summer and warmth in the winter. Unfortunately, it also reduces the amount of fresh air that enters your home. Have an HVAC technician inspect your HVAC system to determine the amount of ventilation it provides. Your furnace and AC should be pulling in fresh air to circulate throughout your home. Ask a technician to clean your AC and furnace and blow out your ductwork to prevent dust, debris and mold buildup.
Depending on your location, there may be harmful VOCs and pollutants outside your home. Without a proper HVAC filter, your heating and cooling system can pull in harmful air from the outdoors and leave it trapped in your home. Be sure your furnace filter is well-maintained and rated to clean VOCs and other contaminants from the air that’s pulled in from the outdoors. Keep track of your filter changing schedule and replace it when needed to prevent buildup from clogging your air intake or passing through a damaged, worn-out filter.
Other ventilation strategies include installing attic fans, vents or passive ventilation systems throughout your home. Simpler strategies include opening windows whenever possible and using bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans.
Reducing the VOCs in your home is similar to the prevention step discussed above. Ask a professional to inspect your home to find any interior sources of VOC emissions. One area you may not have thought of is your kitchen, including your gas stove. Typical sources of VOCs in your home can be safely cleaned and replaced with modern, safe and energy-efficient options.
Synthetic fragrances are a common source of VOCs in many homes. Standard plug-in air fresheners were found in one study to include 20 different VOCs. Because air freshening products are not required to list their ingredients but instead simply list “fragrance,” consider choosing a better-documented alternative for your air freshening needs.
Finally, air cleaning equipment provides air circulation, filtration and either humidification or dehumidification, depending on the current quality of your air. These products remove excess moisture, add moisture to dry air or actively filter out harmful VOCs in your air. While they will not stop poor indoor quality at the source, they are a great option for quickly restoring fresh, clean air as you also attack poor indoor air quality at the source.
Lampe berger’s are also known to help purify the air and remove foul odors.
Restore Your Sense of Home
You may not realize your home has poor indoor air quality. Severe levels of VOCs come with more obvious, short-term issues, but low levels of VOCs may not be as immediately apparent. Use professional testing and switch out any known causes of VOCs in your home to restore healthy, fresh air in your home. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has an in depth guide to indoor air quality you can reference if you need more information.
Now that you know how to test indoor air quality in your home, it’s time to make improvements to enjoy reduced levels of VOCs and healthier, safer air. Look for better ways to ventilate, remove irritating and hazardous chemicals and building materials from your home and make the switch to more natural, healthy alternatives.
Start with small steps. After an indoor air quality test, look for natural options for your fragrances and air fresheners. Limit the amount of aerosol sprays and harsh cleaning agents you use. Consider opening windows when the weather is good, and ask a professional about the possibility of asbestos, radon or mold in your home.
Get started at Whole Home Scenting today. Learn how our essential and fragrance oil blends that can be easily diffused throughout your home. Compare our fragrance systems with your current air freshening products today to enjoy fresh, pure scents that encourage a healthier, happier lifestyle.