Air Pollution in the Home
Many people do not realize that indoor air pollution can be two to five times worse (or in extreme cases, 100 times worse) than outdoor air pollution. Because so much time is spent indoors, on average 90% of one's day, the federal Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental threats to public health (http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/insidest.html#Intro1).
You can provide a healthier environment for your family by improving the air quality in your home. If someone in your family suffers from asthma, allergies or other illnesses, providing good indoor air quality can be key to their health.
You can improve the air quality in your home by:
- Letting in fresh air.
- Eliminating sources of air pollution in your home such as cigarettes, toxic chemicals and poorly vented heaters.
- Improving air quality with measures like, air purification systems, duct cleaning, and humidifiers.
Most central heating and air systems don't bring fresh air into the home. They recirculate "old" air. Kitchen and bathroom fans should be designed to vent to outside so that they draw out stale air and bring in new air from the outdoors. Opening doors and windows in your house whenever weather permits also brings in new air.
Is your home adequately ventilated? If you notice these signs, your home probably needs additional ventilation:
- a sour smell from your garbage can in the kitchen,
- a musty gymlike smell coming from bedroom walls,
- mold or mildew in closets or on walls,
- condensation on the inside of windows, or
- eye irritation when inside the house.
How to Improve Ventilation
Increasing ventilation can be an important step in reducing the exposure of your family to air pollution. But if you add powerful fans, it must be done properly to avoid certain dangers like pulling combustion gases such as carbon monoxide from a water heater vent back into your home.
Please contact us. We will be happy to answer your questions about improving the ventilation of your home.
When pollution is emitted into the home, it builds up. If the home is weatherproofed for energy efficiency, there is nowhere for the pollution to go. This is one reason why air pollution is often so much higher in homes than outside. So, it becomes very important not to emit air pollution in the home in the first place.
Here is a list of major sources of air pollution, based on information provided by the federal Environmental Protection Agency at www.epa.gov/.
The first one listed is tobacco smoke. The research on second-hand smoke showing increased cases of asthma and lung cancer for family members is a good indication that home air quality matters.
• Tobacco smoke. Do not allow smoking in the home.
• Smoke and gases from stoves, heaters and fireplaces that burn wood, kerosene and gas. Combustion products, particularly if the device is poorly designed or adjusted can include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ash particles. Properly vented and adjusted devices reduce pollution.
• Vehicles idling in garage or otherwise near the home. Exhaust includes carbon monoxide and other toxic chemicals. The EPA recommends not idling vehicles in places that could send exhaust into the home.
• Pesticides and disinfectants including moth balls. The EPA has found that levels of pesticide and disinfectant particles in homes are often so high as to be concerning. The agency recommends finding less toxic alternatives, mixing and diluting pesticides outside, and disposing of unused quantities safely rather than storing them in the home.
• Toxic chemicals in household cleaners, beauty products, dry cleaning, and paints. Many household chemicals, often ones that give off strong-smelling fumes, are toxic. Fragrances, acetone, ammonia, chlorine bleach, conventional dry cleaning chemicals, nail polish, paints, glues, and hairsprays and other aerosols, can create high levels of toxins indoors. Often packaging of these types of products warn to use with good ventilation.
If possible, substitute less-toxic products. There is considerable information on the Internet about the use of commonly available non-toxic alternatives. If you are using a household chemical that may be toxic, use it outdoors. If using indoors, open all the doors and windows.
• Molds and mildews. The EPA recommends controlling humidity levels, good maintenance of central air systems, and good housekeeping. Humidity levels can be controlled with attic ventilation. For individuals who are particularly sensitive to biological contaminants, duct cleaning may also be helpful.
• Radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that can emanate from the ground into homes. It's present in homes in all parts of the United States though some areas are more likely to be affected than others. Radon is carcinogenic and exposure should be minimized. Radon test kits are readily available and steps to reduce radon in the home are relatively low-cost. For these reasons, it's a good idea to test your home, regardless of your location. Go to http://www.epa.gov/radon/index.html for more information.
• Carpeting, vinyl, some particle boards and plywoods. Building materials can out-gas (give out gases) or form toxic dust. Before purchase, research the PVC content of vinyls, the formaldehyde content of particle boards and plywoods and the out-gassing potential of new carpeting and carpet glues. Sensitive individuals should take precautions. For example, they may want to leave the house when new carpets are being installed and run fans and leave windows open for a few days.
• Asbestos. If asbestos has been used in insulation or other building materials for your home, so long as the interior of your home is not exposed to it and the asbestos is not disturbed, there is no reason for concern. Should you wish to remodel or disturb the asbestos, care must be taken not to kick asbestos particles into the air. Work only with a contractor trained in dealing with asbestos and consult the EPA website listed above.
• Lead. Lead is a toxic element to which children's nervous systems are particularly sensitive. If lead paint is present in the home, consult the EPA website listed above. If a family member works with lead, he/she should remove work clothing and use door mats before entering the home.
We are assaulted daily by chemicals which can harm our health, even in our own homes. The more you learn about replacement products that are less toxic, the more you can protect your family. We will be happy to help you with ensuring that your home ventilation system helps you in creating a healthful home environment.