Interestingly, little is known about indoor air pollution. Much of what we know about air pollution and its role in hazardous air quality relates to outside condition. In fact, recently the New Yorker conducted a comprehensive look at indoor air pollution and the potential dangers lurking in our homes. The article concluded with a stark observation:
“Outdoor air has been regulated for decades, but emissions from daily domestic activities may be more dangerous than anyone imagined.”
However, at A.Johnson, we offer a variety of services that provide improved indoor air quality. As a result, consider adding indoor air quality testing to your to-do list. Air quality testing zeroes in on the pollutants and problems that may be diminishing the air quality in your home. Plus, there are plenty of solutions to improve it – which is vital to keeping everyone in the house happy and healthy.
To help homeowners across the Capital District, the following outlines some basic information about air pollution and ways to address hazardous air quality (particularly in your home)
What are air pollutants?
Indoor air pollutants are unwanted, sometimes harmful materials in the air. They range from dusts to chemicals to radon. Additionally, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures. In particular, IAQ relates to the health and comfort of the people who live or work inside those buildings. Air pollutants that diminish the quality of air we breath include:
- Excess moisture.
- Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices.
- Tobacco products.
- Some household cleaning and personal care products.
- Asbestos-containing insulation.
- Newly installed upholstery, carpets or flooring.
- Cabinetry or furniture made from certain pressed wood products.
- Outdoor sources like outdoor air pollution, radon and pesticides.
Furthermore, according to National Geographic, air pollution is a mix of particles and gases that potentially reach harmful concentration levels both inside and outside. For example, common air pollutants also include soot, smoke, mold, pollen, methane and carbon dioxide.
Plus, air pollution creates a range of issues including health risks. Some risks appear immediately, such as headaches, fatigue, dizziness, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and aggravation of existing conditions like asthma. However, certain risks appear over time from repeated exposure to hazardous air quality, such as respiratory and heart diseases, and even some types of cancer.
What is hazardous air quality?
The EPA created standards that defines clean and hazardous air quality.
“The Clean Air Act provides the principal framework for national, state, and local efforts to protect air quality. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) is responsible for setting standards, also known as national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), for pollutants which are considered harmful to people and the environment. OAQPS is also responsible for ensuring that these air quality standards are met, or attained (in cooperation with state, Tribal, and local governments) through national standards and strategies to control pollutant emissions from automobiles, factories, and other sources.”
To help gage the air quality in your community, the EPA offers an annual report, which people can check for historical measurements. Additionally, the EPA produces the Air Quality Index, which many weather apps include in their basic functionality.
Information About the Air Quality Index
Additionally, the EPA provides the Air Quality Index (AQI) that reports daily air quality around the country. The AQI informs citizens about the air quality (on a scale of clean to polluted) in your community. Plus, the AQI offers information on any related health effects over the short and long term from air of that particular quality. Finally, the EPA determines the AQI based on five major pollutants as defined by the Clean Air Act:
- Ground-Level O-Zone
- Particle Pollution
- Carbon Monoxide
- Sulfur Dioxide
- Nitrogen Dioxide
The first two categories (ground-level o-zone and particle pollution) pose the biggest threat in the U.S. For more on the AQI, the EPA explains how to read and interpret the readings.
“Think of the AQI as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality. An AQI value of 100 generally corresponds to the national air quality standard for the pollutant, which is the level EPA has set to protect public health. AQI values below 100 are generally thought of as satisfactory. When AQI values are above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy-at first for certain sensitive groups of people, then for everyone as AQI values get higher.”
How do I improve my air quality?
Fortunately, homeowners possess many options that help improve the air quality in their home. Please find some expert tips and advice on how to identify potential pollutants and solutions to help address the root causes.
Dispose of Dust Mites
Dust mites create a huge indoor air pollution problem. For example, in a 10-week life span, a house dust mite produces approximately 2,000 fecal particles, as well as an even larger number of partially digested enzyme-covered dust particles.
“Dust mites feed on organic detritus, such as flakes of shed human skin, and flourish in the stable environment of dwellings. House dust mites remain barely visible to the eye because they are incredibly small and have translucent bodies. However, mites are a common cause of asthma, wheezing and allergic symptoms worldwide.”
Mold requires moisture to develop and grow, so the best way to reduce mold spores from growing is reducing moisture from your home.
“Although complete mold eradication remains on our minds, the amount and type of mold exposure varies. For example, basically every bath or shower contains show some minor mold spores without routine cleaning. However, surface mold exposure does not necessarily mean significant mold damage and regularly cleaning the bathroom removes the long-term dangers. But, at some point, most homeowners eventually experience some mold. However, smart homeowners clean the mold and understand why the mold exposure occurred. Then, they contact an experienced HVAC professional to stop the root cause.”
Watch the Humidity Levels
Homeowners want a healthy level of humidity because dust mites and mold enjoy moisture in the air. For example, maintaining humidity levels around 30-50% helps keep allergens and potential air pollutants under control.
“A dehumidifier (and air conditioners during the summer months) helps reduce moisture in indoor air and effectively controls allergens. An air conditioner also reduces indoor pollen count — another plus for allergy-sufferers. Additionally, some tips for dehumidifying your home. Use an exhaust fan or crack open a window when cooking, running the dishwasher, or bathing. Don’t overwater houseplants. Vent the clothes dryer to the outside. Fix leaky plumbing to prevent moisture-loving mold. Empty drip pans in your window air conditioner and dehumidifier.”
Clean Your Home
Dr. Nicholas BuSaba, associate professor of otolaryng-ology at Harvard Medical School, notes a clean home is a happy home because cleanliness reduces dust (and animal dander, if applicable).
“Your cleaning efforts should focus on strategies to reduce the accumulation of pet dander, mold, and dust lurking in your home. Focus on the following activities. Vacuum the carpets and area rugs at least once or twice a week with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter. Opt for hard-surface flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpeting may also cut down on allergens in the home. Regularly clean bedding, drapes, and other items that tend to attract allergens, particularly if you have pets. Clear clutter, because it traps and holds dust that can trigger a reaction.”
Interestingly, upon implementation of the Clean Air Act, in most parts of the country, our outside air is now cleaner than our inside air. As a result, one way to reduce hazardous air quality in your home is to add external air. And improving ventilation in your home helps achieve this goal.
“Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate. Local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants directly from the room where the fan is located and also increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.”
Keep the Air Pure
Naturally, keeping pure air helps reduce any potential issues. But, what does this mean? For starters, avoid adding extra chemicals in the air through fresheners. Also, consider adding an air purifier that meets EPA guidelines.
“Stay away from synthetic air fresheners and petroleum-based wax candles. Opt instead for homemade air fresheners, simmer pots, and all-natural soy or beeswax candles which won’t emit any harmful chemicals. Also, use a HEPA air purifier. Make sure to get an air purifier that does not produce ozone, and one that does eliminate VOCs that off-gas from paint, furniture, and cleaning chemicals.”
Regardless of air quality concerns, all homeowners should test for excessive radon in their homes. Radon is not visible, but is a dangerous gas that can impact your health. Plus, there are plenty of easy, DIY tests on the market. Therefore, homeowners have no excuse to understand their potential radon exposure and contact a certified expert to help lower levels (if their home contains it).
“There are many kinds of inexpensive, do-it-yourself radon test kits you can get through the mail and in hardware stores and other retail outlets. Make sure you buy a test kit that has passed EPA’s testing program or is state-certified. These kits will usually display the phrase Meets EPA Requirements. If you prefer, or if you are buying or selling a home, you can hire a trained contractor to do the testing for you. EPA’s voluntary National Radon Proficiency Program (RPP) evaluated testing (measurement) contractors. A contractor who had met EPA’s requirements carried an EPA-generated RPP identification card. EPA provided a list of companies and individual contractors on this web site which was also available to state radon offices. You should call your state radon office to obtain a list of qualified contractors in your area.”
Can A.Johnson help reduce the risks of hazardous air quality in my home?
Our team offers a handful of solutions that help improve your air quality and reduce any hazardous particles. Learn more about our services and always feel free to call for an air quality test of your home.
Zoning systems provide a quiet and efficient way to section off areas of your home so you can control air flow, temperatures, and potential pollutants from reaching certain parts of the house.
Air purification (air cleaning) systems remove contaminants like dust, gaseous pollutants, radon, microscopic particles and more from the air in your home. These devices are helpful for everyone. However, they are especially vital to improving the health of homeowners and occupants who suffer from asthma, allergies, and other respiratory conditions.
The air that flows through the ducts in your heating and cooling system does your home no good if its filled with dust, debris, mold. Therefore, a thorough duct cleaning performed by an expert technician is one way to improve indoor air quality.
Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers
Installing humidifiers and/or dehumidifiers inside the home can make a big difference in comfort, as adjusting the humidity level can have quite an impact on indoor air quality. For example, fine-tuning the humidity level can help alleviate any dryness in the eyes, nose, or throat you feel when you wake up in the morning.
Ultraviolet technology helps to identify and eliminate mold, a common problem in many homes that can affect air quality. Residential ultraviolet units have proven to be effective in constantly moving air environments. For example, an effective HVAC system helps kill mold and bacteria. Plus, ultraviolet technology not only eliminates mold and improves indoor air quality, it helps reduce hidden odors in the home.
A.Johnson works with homeowners in the Capital District area fixing cooling, heating and plumbing issues in your home. From air quality testing and routine maintenance to emergency service, contact us today to improve your home comfort needs!