Air Pollution And Health Effects-How To Improve Home Air Quality
Interior home pollution sources that release gases or particles into the homes air are the main cause of unhealthy
indoor air quality problems. Without proper ventilation this can greatly increase the amount of indoor pollutant
levels.There has to be enough outdoor air coming into the home to help dilute these gases or particles from these indoor air pollutant sources. Some additional things that can effect your indoor air quality are high temperature and humidity levels because it can increase the concentrations of some pollutants.
Indoor Air Pollution Sources:
Sources of indoor air pollution are found in a numerous amount of varieties in our homes, including combustable
sources such as the following:
1. oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and tobacco products;
2. building materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated, asbestos-containing
insulation, wet or damp carpet, and cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed
3. products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies;
4. central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices; and
5. outdoor sources such as radon, pesticides, and outdoor air pollution.
These are all related to our daily activities at home and can cause pollutants to be released into our homes if we are not mindful of our surroundings and actions. Without proper ventilation these high pollutant concentrations can remain in the air for long periods of time. If there is not enough outdoor air entering a home these pollutants can grow and pose major
health concerns and comfort problem levels.
Homes must be built with a greater mechanical means in mind when it comes to proper ventilation. Homes that are not properly designed and built will not correctly ventilate a homes atmosphere and may cause higher pollutant levels than other homes. Depending on where you live weather conditions can drastically reduce the amount of outdoor air that enters a home and pollutants can buildup in that home, so choosing the right mechanical ventilation system for the home due to a geographical locations weather conditions is important.
So lets get a “Bigger Picture” on the “Health Effects” that are associated with high pollutant levels in the home, both immediate and long term effects.
Immediate Adverse Health Effects:
Wheather or not it is a single exposure or repeated exposure to pollutants in a home there can be some immediate adverse health effects associated with the exposure. Some of the possible effects are as follows: irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. These types of immediate health effects are usually short-termed and are treatable.
We should be aware that the best defence against an exposure is to remove the person from the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. Other symptoms can show up soon after an exposure to indoor air pollutants such as the following:
1. Asthma- a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult.
2. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis- an immune system disorder in which your lungs become inflamed as an allergic reaction to inhaled microorganisms, plant and animal proteins or chemicals.
3. Humidifier fever- sudden onset of fever. Other features may include muscle aches and pains and mild shortness of breath.
Immediate reactions to indoor air pollutants can depend on numerous underlying factors, such as the following: age, preexisting medical conditions and sensitivity. Individuals can become sensitized to both biological and chemical pollutants after repeated exposure.
It is very important that we pay attention to the time and place these symptoms occur when possibly exposed to indoor air pollutants and weather or not the symptoms fade or go away when we leave our homes so we can correctly identify the exposure sources that may be the cause of our health issues.
Remember that symptoms due to indoor air pollutant exposures can become much worse if there is an improper amount of outdoor air supply from the heating, cooling, or humidity conditions that are widespread in a particular area or at a particular time in the home.
Long-Term Health Effects:
Just because you may not have a sensitivity to indoor air pollutants at the time of exposure, constant exposure to these indoor air pollutant can create symptoms that show up years after exposure has occurred, such as the following:
1. Respiratory diseases- some of the most common arechronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension.
2. Heart disease- the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attack.
3. Cancer- a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body.
It is wise to look into improving the indoor air quality in your home regardless weather symptoms are not readily noticeable.
Even though the pollutants that are commonly found in our homes indoor air can be responsible for many harmful health conditions it is unknown exactly what levels of concentration or times of exposure are required to produce specific health conditions. Some people in general react to indoor air pollutant exposures differently than others.
How To Improve Indoor Air Quality In Your Home:
There are three (3) basic ways to tackle this situation….
1. Source Control:
The best and most successful way to produce a positive outcome when it comes to indoor air quality is by removing completely the individual sources of pollution or to at least reduce their emissions.
a. Products that contain asbestos, should be sealed or enclosed.
b. Gas Stoves can be adjusted to decrease the quantity of emissions
Note: By controlling the source of emissions can also be a more cost-efficient method than increasing ventilation due to a possible increase in your energy costs.
2. Improved Ventilation:
Improving ventilation can decrease the levels of concentrations of indoor air pollutants and increases the quantity of outdoor air coming indoors. Do not think that heating and cooling systems such as forced air heating brings fresh air into the house, most don’t.
What can you do?
a. Opening windows and doors.
b. Invest in window or attic fans and operate them if the weather conditions are appropriate for the occasion.
c. Turning on a window air conditioning unit with the vent control open can increase a homes
outdoor ventilation rate.
d. Make sure your bathroom or kitchen fans are properly exhausting outdoors to remove localized pollutants from the air, these fans will increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.
It is important to utilize the information above as much as possible while you are in the mist of activities involving such things as painting, paint stripping, cooking, welding, soldering, or sanding. When engaged in some of these activities it is best to take it outdoors. There are modern homes today are equipt with mechanical systems such as energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators (air-to-air heat exchangers) that have the ability to bring in outdoor fresh air into the home.
3. Air Cleaners:
Depending on the type of air cleaner used will determine its ability to remove particles from the air. Most air cleaners are not designed to remove gaseous pollutants in the air. There are basically two (2) types of air cleaners
a. Inexpensive table-top models
b. Sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems
Before you go and purchase an air cleaner check the following:
a. How effective does it collect pollutants from indoor
air this is known as a (percentage efficiency rating).
b. Its ability to draw air through the
cleaning or filtering element which is known as (cubic feet per minute).
The indoor air quality of a home will always be determined by the pollutants source strength and the air change rate.
Eliminating the pollutant at the source is preferred over confinement. There are many types of pollutants present in the average home today such as Radon, Carbon Monoxide, Cleaning Chemicals, Fuels, and Moisture (Mold and Mildew),
so selecting the proper actions is critically important when improving your homes air quality.
If you ever have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.
All the best,
Troy Halstenson (Founder of Performance Air and Heating)