What Indoor Air Quality is and How it Can Be Improved
If you’ve flipped through a parenting or home and garden magazine recently you may have noticed a big emphasis on indoor air quality and how to improve your home’s air. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, we spend nearly 90% of our time every day indoors, where pollutant levels can be 2-5 times higher than outdoor levels.
Indoor air quality is extremely important to the health and overall wellness of a home and its occupants. Poor indoor air quality can increase health problems over time like coughs, eye irritation, headaches, allergic reactions, and in very rare cases, life-threatening conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Most basically, indoor air quality (IAQ) is the combination of several factors that commonly appear in a home which can negatively impact your overall comfort, health, and well-being. Some of the most common contributors to poor IAQ include:
- Radon: a radioactive gas that can be found in the soil
- Second-Hand Smoke: Produced through the burning of tobacco products
- Combustion Pollutants: gases and other particles that come from the burning of materials like Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Dioxide
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Chemicals that evaporate into the air when products like paints, cleaning supplies, varnishes, pesticides, and other common materials are used
- Biological Pollutants: Includes mold, mildew, dust mites, pet hair, and dander
Sounds scary and overwhelming, right? Don’t fret. You can take simple steps now to help effectively manage your home’s indoor air quality right now.
A proper IAQ improvement plan will address:
The control of airborne pollutants
Reduce your exposure to triggering pollutants by cleaning and dusting regularly, frequently changing bed linens, changing dirty air filters, and eliminating or avoiding individual sources of pollutant emissions.
The distribution of fresh outdoor air to indoor areas
When possible, open windows to let fresh outdoor air into your home, this will help with overall ventilation. Also, turning on kitchen and bathroom fans that exhaust outside can help remove pollutants.
The monitoring and control of temperature and humidity
The EPA recommends humidity levels from 30-50%. If your home is too dry, this can lead to static electricity, dry skin and lips, scratchy throats, and respiratory problems. If humidity is too high, this can cause mold and other bacteria to grow, structural damage, and the warping of wood furnishings and flooring. To address this, get a humidity or moisture gauge for your house. Depending on your home’s needs, investing in a dehumidifier or humidifier may be beneficial for the overall health of your home.
As for temperature, keeping a constant “normal” climate will help people in your home feel more comfortable. To address this, use a programmable thermostat to help control room temperatures automatically. Further, use insulation to reduce drafts near windows and doors and close curtains when trying to avoid natural sunlight heating a room more than needed.