According to a report by the Environment Protection Agency, the quality of indoor air is three times lower than the air outside. Now, when you take into account that most people spend over ninety percent of their time indoors, then you would see what dire health implications this might pose.
Part of why indoor pollutants pose such health risk is that most times, you are unaware of them, and this could lead to several health issues. The symptom for some of these health effects might manifest immediately or take longer time or even years to show.
Hence, the best measure against indoor air contamination is aware of this pollution sources, then look out for them and eliminate them from your home. Complementary, use an air purifier to increase your indoor air quality on a regular basis.
To make the process of identifying these pollutants easy, I have grouped them into three categories: natural sources, human-made sources, and pollutants from combustion.
To help you in this regards, here are ten most common indoor air pollutants and also guides on how to eliminate them from your home.
Natural sources of air pollutants
This is an extremely radioactive substance that seeps into the home through the ground. Now that’s something, right? The soil on which your house is built might be rich in radioactive elements that introduce this slow killing gas into your home.
The worse part of it is that this gas is odorless, colorless and has no taste – which means it is tough to detect. Several studies have shown that the level of radon is three times higher inside the home than outside.
A prolonged inhalation of Radon has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. A U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report estimates that Radon causes between seven thousand to thirty thousand lung cancers related deaths every year.
How to test and eliminate Radon
You should check for an abnormal level of radon in your home using a Radon screening kit. Thankfully, these packages are easy to use, affordable and you can purchase them online. Or you could hire a qualified professional to run the test for you.
However, you must contact a professional to remove the gas in case of elevated levels.
Pollutant: Biological Contaminants
This includes Mildews, molds, fungi and viruses, dust, bacteria, and mites. Remember, other life forms call your house home, and they also contribute to lowering the quality of your indoor air.
Since these pollutants are diverse so also is their effects on your health. Take, for instance, the presence of mold in your home could act as a trigger for an allergic reaction. There may be an increase in the incidence of asthma attacks and other health symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, irritation of the throat, lungs, and eyes; you may experience difficulty breathing, fevers and different diseases may break out.
How to eliminate biological contaminants
Biological contaminants are tough to get rid of entirely. However, there are specific steps you can take to minimize their presence in your home.
To reduce cases of mold infestation, it is essential to control the moisture level in your home. A high level of humidity encourages the growth of mold – so reduce air moisture, and you eliminate mold. To do this make sure there are no leaks and ensure your home is adequately ventilated.
Practice simple hygiene – do your dishes and empty your trash so as not to attract cockroaches. Regularly wash your beddings and rug with hot water to prevent mites from hiding there. Please, avoid the use of artificial pesticides as much as you can as this also are indoor contaminants.
Pollutants from combustion
Pollutant: Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas making it difficult to detect like Radon. However, it is caused by the incomplete burning of carbon fuels such as gas stoves, wood stoves, incinerators, and smokestacks. Fumes from cars are also culprits.
Even if you’re exposed to CO for just a short amount of time you are still going to experience some discomforts such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental disorientation, difficulty breathing, vision and brain impairment and high dose can cause death.
How to eliminate Carbon Monoxide
The first line of action to avoid CO poisoning is not to use any of the sources listed above. If you must use them, then ensure they are in proper working condition, make sure your home is well ventilated and install a CO detector – they are cheap, and you can buy them off the internet.
Pollutant: Nitrogen Dioxide
Nitrogen dioxide is also as a result of incomplete burning just like CO. However, it is easily detected. It has a distinct smell and reddish-brown color that makes detection easy.
Nitrogen Dioxide can cause damage to the respiratory tract and lungs, irritation of the eyes and nose.
How to eliminate Nitrogen Dioxide
Just as with CO, the best line of defense here is to remove every source of the contaminant in the first place. Ensure all electronic appliances are functioning properly and check that the air from these appliances flows outside. Ensure proper ventilation of your home.
Pollutant: Second-hand Tobacco smoke
Inhaling tobacco smoke from a second party has been shown to have the same adverse health effects as a smoker. The worrying aspect of this is, smoke lingers in the air long after the cigarette butts and other sources have been put off.
Environmental tobacco smoke or second-hand smoke can cause eye, nose and throat irritation. It can also lead to wheezing and coughing in the short term. If you are exposed to the smoke for an extended period, you may develop bronchitis, and pneumonia (especially in children).
It also increases the odds for emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease.
How to eliminate Environmental Tobacco Smoke
The best action here is to not smoke in your house and to prevent others from doing so. If you must burn, then go outside.
Human-made sources of indoor pollution
Asbestos is materials used in home insulation. They are so small that one can inhale them without knowing – this is where the health risk comes from – they did so. Asbestos fibers have been banned hence they might not pose a serious threat except maybe you’re living in an old house.
There is no immediate symptom; hence you might not see any early signs. However, if exposed to the asbestos fiber for a long time, it might lead to lung cancer, abdominal cancer, and asbestosis.
How to eliminate Asbestos
It is better not to disturb the asbestos, but, if you notice an elevated level of asbestos in the air, hire a professional to remove it or better still seal it off to avoid getting more of the fibers into the air.
Pollutant: Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)
This encompasses a wide range of chemicals including pesticides, aerosol sprays, hair sprays, perfumes, glues, fabric softeners, paints, and so on.
They can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. They can also impact on the central nervous system and kidneys adversely.
How to eliminate VOCs
Ensure your home has adequate ventilation. Don’t spend long hours inside freshly painted rooms until the smell dispels. Avoid the use of pesticides as much as you can, and if you must, read and follow the instructions on the label and make sure to keep the area well ventilated.
Formaldehyde is an organic compound that has a pungent smell. Common sources of formaldehyde in the home include pressed wood products (particle board, paneling, and plywood), formaldehyde wall insulation, paper products, glues, adhesives, carpets, etc.
Prolonged exposure to formaldehyde could trigger allergic reactions, causes eye, nose, and throat irritation. You may experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, and coughing.
How to eliminate formaldehyde
To maintain a minimum level of formaldehyde in your home, it is recommended to keep the humidity and temperate moderate. Also if you are not insulating your home with UFFI, then you probably don’t have an elevated level of formaldehyde to worry about.
As you can see, several air contaminants can lower the quality of air in your home, but, with the simple steps listed also, you can combat these air pollutants while boosting your indoor air quality. Plus, an air purifier helps too, a lot!