Breathe easy with better Indoor Air Quality! (IAQ)
The average human breathes 11,000 liters of air a day!
People tend to think of pollution happening outdoors. What about indoors? Indoor pollution can reach levels several times higher than outdoor levels. So, what are you breathing every day inside your home?
Pollution can come from a variety of sources. Some of them you might not even think of.
Top indoor pollutants
PM2.5: Particulate matter, or PM, is a mix of particles and droplets in the air. PM varies in shape and size, but those of 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller can adversely affect your health because they can be inhaled. PM 2.5 refers to fine particulate matter—that with a diameter of two-and-one-half microns or less.
Sufficient exposure to PM2.5 can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, leading to allergy-like symptoms and shortness of breath in otherwise healthy people. It can also exacerbate existing medical problems, such as asthma and heart disease. The World Health Organization considers PM2.5 the world’s single biggest environmental health risk.
Indoor PM2.5 levels can be influenced by outdoor sources like vehicle exhaust, wildfires, and power plant emissions. But many indoor activities produce PM2.5 as well: Cooking, burning fireplaces, and smoking are just a few common sources.
VOCs: The acronym stands for volatile organic compounds, gases emitted from a variety of materials that can have short- and long-term health effects. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, concentrations of many VOCs can be up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors.
Sources of VOCs include many common household products, including hairspray, cosmetics, cleaning fluids, disinfectants, paints, and varnishes. Burning fuels like wood and natural gas also produces VOCs. Formaldehyde is onne of the most common VOCs and can be found in many building materials, including plywood, glues, and insulation. Formaldehyde is also used in some drapes and furniture fabrics. You can read more about formaldehyde and its sources in this article from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Short-term exposure to the low levels of VOCs can cause throat irritation, nausea, fatigue, and other minor complaints. Long-term exposure to high concentrations of VOCs has been linked to more severe respiratory irritation as well as liver and kidney damage. Products can emit VOCs even when they’re in storage, though to a lesser extent than when they’re actively being used.
Carbon monoxide: By now, most people are aware of the deadly effects of high concentrations of this odorless, colorless gas. But exposure to lower levels sometimes given off by fuel-burning appliances can also cause adverse reactions, including confusion and memory loss.
A few air-quality monitors claim they can detect these lower levels. The only reliable way to be alerted to this notoriously hard to identify killer, however, is with a standard carbon monoxide detector.
Radon: Radon is a naturally occurring colorless, odorless gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States after smoking, according to the EPA. As it’s a byproduct of the naturally occurring breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks, and water, it’s ubiquitous both indoors and out. Typically, indoor radon levels must be checked using charcoal-based kits and require you to test your levels for up to 90 days. You then need to ship the kit to a lab for analysis and wait for the results.
An indoor air-quality monitor with a radon sensor can provide faster results by monitoring levels in real time. Currently, the Airthings Wave is the only monitor in our guide with this capability.
Carbon Dioxide: While the effects of high levels of CO2 were long thought to be benign, research has found that concentrations as low as 1,000 ppm can affect people’s cognitive function and decision-making performance.
The greatest source of indoor CO2 is people themselves, as it’s a byproduct of our respiratory function. Coupled with poor ventilation, this commonly leads to high levels of CO2 in many homes. Fortunately, CO2 sensors can be found on most air-quality monitors.
Temperature and Humidity: These levels can affect more than your comfort. High temps and excessive humidity promote mold and mildew growth. These can cause structural damage to your home and cause allergy-like symptoms in those with sensitivities. Monitoring these levels can help you prevent home and health problems and tip you off to potential sources like foundation cracks or leaks and poor insulation.
What we do for homeowners is recommend one or more Indoor Air Quality monitors. We then can help set up and monitor the IAQ over a period of time. This lets us see a trend over time and then we can make recommendations on improving the IAQ in the home. Some tests only grab a sample of air over a few hours. Whats wrong with this method is that the air quality can vary day to day, hour to hour so you won’t get an accurate representation of the air quality in the home.