What You Should Know About Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Most people think air pollution applies only to outdoor air. In fact, the air inside your home or work space could be 2-5 times more polluted than the air you are breathing outside. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that the air quality in some homes is worse than in the average industrial site, with harmful contaminants up to 70 times as concentrated.
They also concluded that some of the worst offenders are cleaning products, with the toxic chemicals found in some household cleaners being 3 times more likely to cause tumours than outdoor air.
Because the majority of us spend 90% of our lives indoors, even low levels of indoor air pollution can negatively affect our health. That makes it all the more important to ensure the best indoor air quality possible. Poor indoor air quality not only affects your immediate health, but can lead to many serious long-term health issues.
American College of Allergists Fact:
50% of all illnesses are either caused or aggravated by polluted indoor air
Since 1980, asthma has increased by over 600%. In North America, 1 person in 10 suffers from asthma triggered by pollutants such as pollen, dust, pet dander, smoke, mould and fungi. In addition, over 25% of people suffer from various types of allergies. Unfortunately there are no cures for asthma or allergies, but the good news is that many people have found that these conditions can be dramatically improved by the proper use of high-quality room air purifiers throughout the house.
In some cases, poor indoor air quality can contribute to respiratory problems, sleep apnea, reduced fertility and sex-drive, shorter life expectancy, and even chronic illnesses such as obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer.
World Health Organization Fact:
Indoor air pollution is responsible for approximately one death every 20 seconds
on a worldwide basis
What pollutants are of concern in indoor air?
Hundreds of different toxic gases have been detected in the air in our homes and offices. These include pollutants such as combustion gases (e.g., carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide) and gaseous organic compounds (e.g., benzene, formaldehyde, dichloromethane). Because today’s homes and office buildings are constructed to be air-tight for energy efficiency, small amounts of toxic gases can build up over time to dangerous concentration levels, causing adverse effects on our health.
Common indoor sources of harmful gaseous pollutants include:
- Central heating and air conditioning systems;
- Humidifiers (both those built into forced-air central heating systems and separate console units);
- Fuel burning appliances (e.g., furnaces, gas stoves and water heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces, space heaters);
- Chimneys that are blocked or dirty;
- Building materials;
- Pressed-wood furniture, cabinets and panelling;
- Carpets, flooring, upholstery and drapes;
- Paints, varnishes, adhesives, dyes, solvents and caulking;
- Household products (e.g., carpet cleaners, oven cleaners, detergents, bleach, air fresheners);
- Personal care products (e.g., deodorants, hair-sprays);
- Dry-cleaned clothing;
- Arts, crafts and hobby supplies;
- Indoor pesticides (e.g., insecticides, disinfectants);
- Tobacco smoke;
- Refrigerant leakage;
- Exhaust fumes entering the house from outside.
Health issues arising from indoor gaseous pollutants may include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, breathing difficulties, allergic reactions, liver and kidney damage, effects on the immune, cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous systems, cancer or even death.
EPA Fact: 80 percent of most people’s exposure to pesticides occurs indoors
Particles are very small substances light enough to be carried by the air in our homes/offices and inhaled. They can be present in many forms, including organic and inorganic materials, solid and liquid substances, and organisms, both dormant and living.
Of primary concern from a health standpoint are the smaller, invisible particles, which have a much higher probability of penetrating deep into the lungs, where they may remain for a long period of time causing acute or chronic illnesses. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), there is also evidence to suggest that these fine particles can get into the bloodstream, making them doubly harmful.
Noxious fine particles in indoor air may include:
- Fine ash and particles from cigarette smoke;
- Particles released by fuel-burning appliances;
- Wood smoke particulates from use of fireplaces or wood stoves;
- Biological pollutants such as viruses, bacteria and moulds;
- Diesel particles, soot and other fine particulates from vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions that filter in from outside.
Health issues resulting from these smaller particles can range from mild irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, to more serious effects such as impaired lung function and cancer.
Although posing less of a health threat because they do not penetrate into the lungs as deeply, larger particles such as pollen, animal dander, house dust allergens and a variety of moulds may trigger allergic or asthmatic responses in many people. Typical symptoms can include mild discomfort, coughing, sneezing and wheezing, shortness of breath, dizziness, lethargy and in some cases, extreme difficulties in breathing.
Fact: The average person’s respiratory system has to eliminate over two heaping tablespoons of particulate matter every day!
Radon is a radioactive gas that originates from natural sources such as rock, soil, groundwater, natural gas and mineral building materials. In the open air, the amount of radon gas is very small and does not pose a health risk. However, in some confined spaces like basements, radon can accumulate to relatively high levels and become a health hazard. Radon can enter the house through cracks in the foundation, basement drains, dirt floors, sumps and joints, as well as from under the furnace base. Any home may have a radon problem, including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.
Because it is radioactive, radon gas decays, and as it does, produces “radon progeny.” These are solid particles that can either be breathed in directly or by inhalation of dust particles that they become attached to. The radon progeny are deposited in the lungs where they emit alpha particles that can damage bronchial and lung tissue, and have the potential to cause lung cancer. The risk of getting lung cancer depends on the level of radon gas in the air and the frequency and duration of exposure.
EPA Fact: Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US today and the number one cause among non-smokers.
What can I do about poor indoor air quality?
There are three strategies for reducing pollutants in indoor air: source control, ventilation and air purification.
Source Control eliminates individual sources of pollutants or reduces their emissions, and is generally the most effective strategy in combatting poor indoor air quality. Eliminating smoking in the house is an excellent example of source control. Some sources, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed, while others like combustion appliances can be adjusted or repaired to reduce emissions. Unfortunately, not all indoor pollutant sources can be easily identified or eliminated.
Ventilation brings outside air indoors. It can be achieved by opening windows and doors, by turning on bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, or in some situations, by the use of mechanical ventilation systems. However, there are practical limits in the extent to which ventilation can be used to reduce airborne pollutants. For example, opening windows may introduce outdoor allergens and pollutants into the house (e.g., pollen, mould spores, automobile emissions) and is also not practical or cost-effective in the winter months.
Air purification, in the form of high-quality room air purifiers, has been shown to significantly improve indoor air quality, providing that you have a unit that is matched to your specific needs. Used in conjunction with common sense solutions, air purifiers can help to reduce the impact of breathing poor indoor air on your health and improve the overall quality of your indoor environment.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals living in Canada and the United States have discovered that high-quality room air purifiers from respected names like IQAir, Austin Air, Blueair and AllerAir can be an important part of a three-stage solution for dealing with the growing concerns and health risks associated with poor indoor air quality.
Let Modern Alchemy Air Purifiers set you on the path to healthier indoor air today!