As you spend more time indoors, air quality becomes important. Health issues from poor indoor quality include may include a headache, runny nose, and even an asthma attack. If you think your home has poor air quality, the first step is to identify the pollutant source. Common pollutants are biologicals, carbon monoxide, environmental tobacco smoke, particulates, radon, and volatile organic compounds.
The Indoor Air Quality Program offers in-depth information for a healthy living and working environment.
Bacteria, dust mites, and molds are common indoor biological pollutants. Inhaling airborne particulates may an allergic reaction or even trigger an asthma attack. If there is excessive humidity or water leakage in your home, bacteria and molds may develop. For information on cleaning-up mold problem, refer to this Fact Sheet
Carbon monoxide can be fatal at high levels. It's the most dangerous indoor air quality pollutant. Fuel-burning appliances can introduce combustive by-products which can harm the respiratory tract and cause skin irritation. Make sure to install appliances properly, vent them to the outside, and maintain them. If you have a generator, keep it outside and never use it indoors. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build-up from using a generator and linger in the air for hours, even after it's shut off.
Inhalable particles range in size. They may be biological or organic such as pet dander, pollen, mold, or skin flakes. They may be inorganic such as carpet fibers, fuel combustion by-products, tobacco smoke, or wood. Particulate exposure may trigger an allergic reaction or asthma attack. A whole-house filter could lower particulate levels if it's properly maintained. A stand-alone air purifier with filter could help in small areas of your home. Be sure to regularly change the filter. An electrostatic or ionizing purifier is not recommended because they create ozone, a powerful lung irritant.
Volatile organic compounds, or VOC's, are chemicals from sources such as household cleaners, indoor chemicals, paints, and solvents, Limit your exposure and properly use these chemicals. Compounds in VOC's usually have an odor, making them easy to detect. Formaldehyde is a common VOC that's often used as a preservative. Formaldehyde may be found in carpeting, furniture, paneling, or particle board. Did you know it can take up to two years for formaldehyde to off gas? Exposure to volatile organic compounds may cause an allergic reaction or damage to the central nervous system and kidneys. They have also been linked to cancer.
You can improve the indoor air quality in your home by controlling possible sources, ventilate, and perform preventative maintenance.
To minimize potential health problems, use and store chemicals correctly. Use products in well-ventilated areas, and only for their intended use.
General ventilation removes toxins from large areas. A general ventilation system circulates fresh air in a large space through exterior air intakes. Air from outside is mixed with indoor air. In Nebraska, it's can be hard to bring fresh air into your home. With energy costs continuing to rise, new homes are being built airtight. When a home is closed-up during the hot summer or cold winter months, air can quickly become stale and toxins build-up. Most homes don't have an active way to bring in fresh air inside. Spot ventilation removes toxins from a localized area. This means a fan in your home exhausts air from specific areas like your bathroom, clothes dryer, or oven hood. This type of ventilation has fans turned on only when there is production of pollutants. If radon gas is a problem in your home, installing a permanent radon mitigation system is the best solution. A licensed radon professional can help you with this. Radon mitigation systems can be reduce moisture levels in your home.
Preventative maintenance can keep your indoor air quality clean and healthy. Keep combustion equipment inspected on a yearly basis, and install a carbon monoxide detector if you don't have one. To prevent mold, quickly attend to leaks, spills, and stains. Keep your home clean and free of clutter. Remove food waste to control dander, dust, and pests. Change your furnace filter on a regular basis (at least quarterly) to control airborne particulates. Conduct a radon test and have a radon mitigation system installed in your home if levels are high. Don't smoke in your home or vehicle. Keep chemicals properly stored.