Indoor air quality is a critical factor in promoting health and safety. Poor indoor air quality can contribute to numerous health problems, including headaches, fatigue, allergies, and asthma. It can also make the air downright unpleasant due to stuffiness and odors.
While there is a wide range of sources of poor indoor air quality, some are particularly common. By understanding and addressing these 12 common sources, you can take steps to ensure the air inside your home is as clean and healthy as possible.
1. Cleaning Products
Household cleaning products often contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause serious indoor air quality problems. Common products, such as air fresheners, furniture polish, oven cleaners, and floor waxes, can contain VOCs.
When using these products, it’s a good idea to open your windows and to use fans to allow the fumes to ventilate outside. Consider switching to all-natural, non-toxic cleaning products, which are safer for your indoor air.
2. Cooking Fumes
Burning food, frying foods high in oil, and boiling sugars release oils and particles that can pollute your indoor air. Even if you can’t see or smell the fumes, they can settle on walls and furniture and become an indoor air quality hazard.
To reduce cooking fumes, make sure to use an exhaust fan or range hood when cooking. This encourages the fumes to escape your kitchen as soon as they’re released into the air, preventing them from recirculating in your home. If you don’t have an exhaust fan, opening a window can also help.
3. Pet Dander
Animals bring a lot of joy to our lives, but they can also be a major source of indoor air pollution. Pet dander is made up of tiny particles of pet hair, saliva, and urine that can circulate in your air and aggravate allergies. While pet dander is particularly harmful to those with allergies, it can cause unpleasant odors and other indoor air quality issues for everyone in the house.
Be sure to vacuum regularly and to bathe your pets often. You may also want to consider an air purifier that’s specially designed for pet hair and dander.
4. Mold and Mildew
Mold is a type of fungus that can trigger allergies and other respiratory problems. It grows on damp surfaces, including walls, carpets, and furniture. Mildew is a particular type of mold that grows in warm, humid environments and can be particularly difficult to remove once it has taken root.
The key to avoiding mold and mildew is controlling indoor moisture levels. Make sure your home isn’t too humid by using a dehumidifier and cleaning up any water spills or leaks as soon as possible.
5. Tobacco Smoke
Smoking indoors is a major source of indoor air pollution. The smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes contains numerous toxins that can trigger allergies and other respiratory problems.
Be sure to keep all smoking outdoors, and if possible, to an area far away from any open windows or doors. Outdoor smoking can still impact your indoor air quality, but to a much lesser degree than indoor smoking. Location is key here — the farther away from your home, the better.
6. Furniture Off-Gassing
Furniture and other household items can release dangerous chemicals into the air in a process known as off-gassing. Upholstered furniture, mattresses, and carpets are common offenders, as are new items just out of the box.
The most effective way to avoid furniture off-gassing is to buy furniture made from natural materials such as wood, cotton, wool, and leather. If you do opt for synthetic materials, make sure to air out your new furniture or mattresses before using them.
7. Dust Mites
Dust mites are microscopic bugs that feed on dust and can set off allergies and asthma. They can be found in bedding, carpets, curtains, furniture, and other fabrics. Their waste and body parts can accumulate in the air, making it difficult to breathe.
To reduce dust mite populations, vacuum regularly and wash sheets and other fabrics frequently. If possible, opt for dust-mite-proof covers on mattresses and pillows. The fewer places dust mites have to hide, the better.
You can also reduce dust mite populations by using a dehumidifier. Dust mites can’t survive in environments with low humidity, so keeping your home’s humidity levels below 50% can help you keep them at bay.
8. Gas Appliances
Gas appliances such as furnaces, ovens, and water heaters can produce carbon monoxide, a colorless gas that’s toxic to humans. These appliances can also release nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde, both of which are associated with asthma and other respiratory problems.
Regular maintenance can help reduce emissions from gas appliances. Make sure your appliances are serviced and inspected annually by a qualified technician. If you can afford it, consider switching to electric appliances, which release far fewer pollutants into the air.
Fireplaces, both gas and wood burning, can fill your home with smoke and other pollutants like particulate matter.
If you use your fireplace, make sure it is properly ventilated. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned regularly to reduce emissions from wood-burning fireplaces. In some cases, it may be best to avoid using your fireplace altogether, particularly if you or someone in your home suffers from a respiratory disease.
10. Paints and Varnishes
Paints and varnishes can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, which can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. VOCs are also associated with headaches, nausea, and other health issues.
Whenever possible, use low-VOC or no-VOC paints and varnishes. If you must use traditional products, make sure to properly ventilate the area where you’re painting and to open windows to allow the VOCs to escape. You should also try to limit the amount of time you spend in a freshly painted room.
Pesticides contain chemicals that can be hazardous to your health, especially for children and pregnant women. Avoid using them indoors whenever possible.
Whenever possible, opt for natural pest control methods such as traps and barriers. You can also use plants or natural oils such as peppermint to repel pests. If you must use pesticides, make sure to read the label carefully and to follow all directions.
12. Poor Ventilation
Poor ventilation can cause airborne pollutants to become trapped indoors. This is especially true in tightly sealed homes without adequate air exchange. The air inside these homes can become stagnant and polluted, leading to a variety of health issues.
Ensuring adequate ventilation is key. Open windows when possible, and make sure your home has an effective ventilation system. If you’re concerned about energy loss, consider investing in a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) that will exchange stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air while conserving energy.
By taking the steps outlined above, you can help to improve your home’s air quality and protect the health of yourself and your family. And you don’t have to do it alone — if you’re concerned about your indoor air quality, Honest Air Conditioning is here to help. As a top provider of air conditioning, heating, and indoor air quality services in Mesa, AZ, we can help you find the solutions that are right for your home. Contact us today to learn more!