For the past three months, our homes have been our sanctuaries. They’ve been our safe haven, our office and our children’s school, as we work to diminish the threat of the Covid-19 virus. But as much as we are trying to mitigate the risk of exposure to germs outside, it is equally as important to take steps to improve the indoor air quality in our homes. Even before 2020, statistics showed that people spent about 90% of their lives indoors. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be anywhere from two to five times more contaminated than outdoor air. That ranks indoor air pollution among the top four environmental hazards in America.
COMMON INDOOR AIR CONTAMINANTS
As pollutants get trapped in homes, they make the air stale, damp, stuffy and unpleasant to breathe. What’s worse is that they affect the safety of the air. There are many sources of indoor air pollution, including:
- Fuel-burning combustion appliances
- Tobacco products
- Building materials and furnishings such as insulation containing asbestos, newly installed flooring, upholstery or carpet, cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products
- Household cleaning or personal care products
- Central heating and cooling systems
- Excess moisture
The importance of any single source depends on how much of a given pollutant is emitted and how hazardous those emissions are. Factors such as how old the source is and whether it has been properly maintained are significant. For example, an improperly adjusted gas stove can emit significantly more carbon monoxide than one that is properly installed.
Building materials, furnishings and products like air fresheners can release pollutants more or less continuously. Other sources, related to activities like smoking, cleaning, redecorating or doing hobbies release pollutants intermittently. Unvented or malfunctioning appliances or improperly used products can release higher and sometimes even dangerous levels of pollutants.
EFFECTS OF EXPOSURE TO INDOOR AIR POLLUTANTS
According to the EPA, even brief exposure to poor indoor air quality can lead to some uncomfortable health symptoms. Some health effects may show up after a single exposure to a pollutant. Other times it takes repeated exposure. The symptoms can include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Because these symptoms are so similar to allergies, colds or other common viruses, it is often difficult to know if they are a really the result of exposure to indoor air pollution. But prolonged exposure to low-quality indoor air can lead to more than just allergic reactions and headaches over time. Of the 4.3 million who die each year due to poor indoor air quality, 60% of them die from heart-related conditions, and the other 40% die from lung problems.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT THESE PROBLEMS?
Focus on improving your home’s ventilation system
Airflow is crucial for good indoor air quality. Getting airflow through your house will remove stagnant air and refresh the interior air. One option is to simply open the doors and windows. Another option is to have a trickle ventilator. These devices allow air from the outside to flow inside through a filter that cleans the air of impurities. The kitchen or cooking area is the best location for these types of ventilators, since stoves and ovens are a common way that air pollution gets into your home. In areas that are prone to moisture, such as the bathroom, or in ones that you use combustion products, make sure to have an exhaust fan in place.
Keep your HVAC system clean
Air conditioners can really help improve indoor air quality by drying out the air in your home and refreshing stale air. And almost all air conditioners contain a type of filter that cleans the air, removing impurities and pollens. It’s critical to keep your house on a regular HVAC maintenance schedule and to replace your air filters regularly. Your HVAC specialist can also install high-efficiency filters, which will be the most effective for filtering out common indoor air contaminants. You can even ask your HVAC service to inspect your system and make sure that it’s designed properly for your house.
Keep your sheets and clothes clean
Dust mites are a leading cause of poor air quality. They can irritate your nose and throat leaving you feeling tired and lethargic. Dust mites can often linger in the fabric of your homes such as bedding, cushions, and curtains. It is important that you clean these items regularly. If you have pets, try to keep them off your beds and sofas to minimize the build-up of hair.
Use combustion products with caution
Make sure all furnaces, water heaters and HVAC systems, are operating correctly and are able to ventilate properly. Have them inspected regularly by your HVAC technician to ensure they are operating efficiently and vented properly. Reduce or eliminate the use of tobacco inside the house. And never leave a vehicle idling in a closed space near the home, such as in the garage.
Detect and prevent radon exposure
Radon detectors and prevention devices are easy to obtain and install. A radon control device usually involves a fan and a PVC pipe that work together to improve the flow of radon and release it into the atmosphere at the roof level so that the pressure doesn’t push it up into your house through the foundation.
Use Beeswax candles
Beeswax candles have air purifying qualities because as they burn, they release negative ions. Many pollutants and other impurities carry a positive charge. Negative ions released into the air by the burning candle cause the positively charged particles to fall from suspension. This negative ion air charging is also the way many air purifiers work.
Activated charcoal reduces air contaminants
Activated charcoal has been used for decades as a safe way to purify the air. It was used inside gas masks in World War I. Today, forms of activated charcoal are in many types of filters used to recycle air inside nuclear submarines and reducing emissions in cars.
Activated charcoal is present in many HEPA filters that you should be using in your home in your appliances like vacuum cleaners, air conditioners or other ventilation systems.
Bamboo, ivy, and other houseplants help cleanse the air
Some houseplants can really help remove toxins from the air in your home, whilst providing additional oxygen. Some of the best types of plants for improving the air quality in your home include: Bamboo Palm, English Ivy, Gerbera Daisy, and several varieties of Dracaena.
Consider an Air Purifier
Air purifiers and air purification systems are extremely effective for the removal of common allergens such as pollen, dander, dust, and more. Both portable and whole home air purification units are available. Most air purifiers use filter media or UV light to trap or neutralize airborne contaminants in your home.
When you partner with a company like Levco, you don’t have to sweat the details. Levco is the premier provider of Heating & Cooling service as well as fuel oil delivery in Fairfield County, CT. Since 1980, Levco has been family owned and operated, offering the highest quality service to thousands of homeowners. Stay up to date with Levco by liking our page on Facebook and don’t forget to check back here for more information on heating and cooling!