What is Indoor Air Quality?
Indoor Air Quality, aka IAQ, or indoor environmental quality, is a term used to describe the condition of air within a building like a home, school, or building. According to the EPA, Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, and the concentration of pollutants can be two to five times higher than outdoor levels. Given the amount of time spent in your home, you should always be aware of your home’s IAQ and take action to eliminate pollutants that can adversely impact your health.
Why Should Homeowners Care?
Poor IAQ can have both immediate and long-term negative impacts on your health. Direct effects of poor IAQ can be irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, dizziness, headache, and fatigue, often showing up following exposure. Exposure to pollutants can also trigger or worsen respiratory issues such as asthma. You can remedy the immediate effects if the known pollutants are removed, which will improve your IAQ. Long-term effects show up long after the initial exposure to these indoor pollutants. Studies have linked various respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and certain forms of cancer to the exposure of these indoor pollutants.
To keep you and your family healthy and avoid health risks associated with poor IAQ, you can monitor the following factors in your home to ensure your home’s air is clear and healthy:
This covers many particulate pollutants from biological sources: pet dander, viruses and bacteria, plant pollen, droppings from pests such as mice or cockroaches, and mold. Inhalation of these biological pollutants can lead to allergic reactions, respiratory issues, and catching illnesses like influenza. These particulates can accumulate in air ducts and get spread throughout the home by your HVAC.
Lead particles become airborne quickly and can get into the home from many different sources: lead in pipes, lead-based paint, lead-contaminated soil. Lead accumulates in the body once inhaled and can cause severe damage to the cardiovascular, nervous, reproductive systems. Children are at a higher risk, as their bodies absorb lead easier and can disrupt their development.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is also toxic. Because of this, it is nearly impossible to detect when it is present in your home without a proper CO detector. Common sources of CO in the house are leaks of natural gas from stoves or furnaces, automobile exhaust from attached garages, and any other gas-powered equipment that may be found in the home, like space heaters or generators.
Due to its durability and flame-resistant qualities, asbestos was a common material used in many construction products, from flooring to insulation. However, once airborne inhalation was linked to mesothelioma and lung cancer, it was outlawed by the government for these applications. If you live in an older home, you may want a professional asbestos inspector to determine if asbestos was used in any of your home materials.
Formaldehyde is a widely used chemical across many household products, building materials, and a byproduct of fuel-burning appliances. High concentrations of formaldehyde can lead to cancer, while short-term exposure can lead to irritation of your eyes, nose, throat, and skin.