The indoor air quality of your home can be up to than the air quality outside your home.
Your home is a contained space. Any air pollutants that get released into your home have no other place to go. Because of this, air pollutants build up inside your house over time.
But is this really a problem?
In short, yes. Poor air quality can turn your home into an unhealthy living environment.
That's why we've put together this guide that'll teach you more about indoor air pollution and help you start improving air quality inside your home.
So let's dive in.
Understanding the Health Effects of Indoor Air Pollution
In some cases, you can experience the health effects of indoor air pollution right away. Other people might live with bad indoor air quality for years before they notice any symptoms.
Indoor air pollution can be especially harmful to people who struggle with asthma or other respiratory problems. If you live with poor air quality for a number of years, you might develop more serious health conditions, including cancer.
Here's a quick breakdown of the short-term and long-term health effects of indoor air pollution.
Short-Term Health Effects
Not everyone will experience immediate symptoms from indoor air pollution. It depends on the person's age, sensitivity, and medical condition.
For example, people with asthma or children might be more sensitive to air pollution than adults. Some healthy adults might also be more sensitive than another. Sensitivity levels can vary greatly from person to person.
Some of the short-term symptoms you might get from indoor air pollution might include the following:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation
These symptoms may fade when you leave home. Once you find the source of the pollution in your home and get rid of it, they will go away.
Long-Term Health Effects
You might not notice the effects of poor indoor air quality until you've lived with it for several years. The health conditions that can develop over years of exposure are much more serious and harder to treat than the short-term health effects.
Here's a quick list of some of the long-term health effects of indoor air pollution:
- Respiratory diseases
- Heart diseases
In some cases, these health effects can be fatal. That's why it's so important to recognize where the air pollution in your home is coming from and correct it as soon as possible.
Not sure how?
We'll give you a few ideas to help you get started below.
Where's All This Pollution Coming From?
Before you can do anything about your indoor air quality, you have to figure out what's polluting your home.
The culprit (or culprits) could be a number of things.
Let's take a closer look at some of the most common types of indoor air pollution to see how they may be affecting your home.
These are common household pollutants you deal with on a daily basis. They include things like pollen, mold, dust mites, pet dander, secondhand smoke, etc.
Just because you sweep and vacuum often doesn't mean these pollutants aren't contributing to your indoor air quality. These pollutants can gather in places you don't always see.
For example, dust can build up in your pillows or stuffed toys. Mold can grow under the sink or along the edge of the bathtub. Pet hair can get stuck deep inside your carpets and furniture.
These types of pollutants are particles or gases that are released into the air when you burn certain materials, like carbon monoxide or nitrogen dioxide.
Don't think you do much burning in your home?
Combustion pollutants can come from appliances like dryers, water heaters, space heaters, gas stoves, fireplaces, wood stoves, etc. But this doesn't mean you should stop using these things. If your appliances have the right ventilation, they won't cause much of a problem.
But if combustion pollutants can't get out of the house because of poor — or a lack of — ventilation, they can be a big part of your air quality problems.
VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, and these pollutants are released into the air from certain types of household products.
This can include things like paints, varnishes, cleaning solutions, building material, furnishing, crafting items like glue, pesticides, permanent markers, dry-cleaned clothes, sealing caulks, carpets, vinyl, cosmetic products, air fresheners, etc.
These items can contain harmful chemicals that contribute to the air pollution inside your home.
But again, that doesn't mean you can't have these items in your home. If you keep your home well-ventilated and clean, these products won't be as dangerous.
You can also find safer alternative options to many types of cleaning solutions, cosmetic products, paints, air fresheners, and more.
How to Begin Improving the Air Quality in Your Home
Correcting poor air quality in your home isn't a difficult fix.
All it takes is a bit of know-how, some cleaning, and control. If you're able to stop pollutants from entering the house and clean pollutants from the air when they do get in, your family can start breathing healthy air again.
We've put together a quick list of eight ways you can start improving the air quality inside your home below.
1. Set a Healthy Humidity Level
A humid home is a breeding ground for dust and mold. You should keep the humidity in your home at around 30 to 50%.
One of the best ways to do this is with a dehumidifier. If your house is big or your dehumidifier is small, you might need more than one to get the results you want. In the winter you may need to put moisture into the home through the use of a humidifier.
But there are some other simple ways to keep the humidity levels in your home low.
to prevent moisture from gathering inside the home. Turn on an exhaust fan when cooking or taking a shower. Open the windows when you use the stove or oven.
Focus on keeping your house moisture free when you can.
2. Improve Your Home's Ventilation
Do your best to bring fresh air into your home. As the air moves through your house, it will carry pollutants back outside.
Most heating and cooling systems don't bring outside air into the home. So open your windows and doors whenever the weather permits. If you have any attic fans, turn them on. You can also install a few window fans to increase the amount of outdoor ventilation your home gets.
Local fans — like kitchen fans and bathroom fans — can also help. These will remove pollutants from the room where the fan is installed. But don't rely on these fans. They won't help ventilate the rest of your house.
3. Keep the Floors Clean
Your carpet may look clean, but it's full of dust, pet dander, bacteria, and other allergens that have built up over the years.
And these pollutants don't stay there.
The pollutants in your carpet make their way back into the air of your home. That means you're breathing in whatever's been tracked over your floor.
While carpet is the main pollutant culprit, it's not the only one. You should always focus on keeping your floor clean, regardless of whether you have carpet, hardwood, tile, or linoleum.
For carpet, make sure you vacuum often with a HEPA filter. You may also want to hire afrom time to time.
For hardwood and other solid floors, sweep, vacuum, and mop. Don't think the broom or vacuum will catch all the gunk on your floor. It's always a good idea to mop once every two to three weeks.
Put a floor mat by the door to catch dirt, dust, and other allergens when people come inside. You should also have your family take off their shoes by the door to prevent tracking outdoor pollutants over your floor.
4. Don't Smoke Inside
Secondhand smoke alone releases 4,000 chemicals into the air. It also dangers for children to breathe, increasing their risk of developing serious health conditions like respiratory infections, asthma, cancer, and SIDS (for infants).
Make your home a no-smoke zone.
If you have guests who smoke, ask them to do it outside. If you or one of your family members smokes, never do it inside the house.
But even the smoke you get onto your clothes can contribute to indoor air pollution. The best way to protect the air quality inside your home is to quit smoking altogether.
5. Use Air Purifiers
Air purifiers will help clean allergens and pollutants out of the air inside your home. It's a good idea to use air purifiers if you or a family member suffers from asthma, allergies, or another respiratory condition.
Like dehumidifiers, you might need more than one.
While individual air purifiers are an option, a better idea would be to install one at your HVAC unit that can clean the air in your whole home. Ultraviolet lights can kill mold, viruses, and bacteria that are floating in your air, electrostatic air filters help remove the tiniest particles and there are even products that breakdown the VOCs!
6. Clean Your House Often
To prevent dust, mold, and other pollutants from gathering inside your home, make sure you clean your house often. Focus on more than just the floor.
Wash all your bedding once every two weeks. That should include sheets, blankets, and pillowcases. You should also wash pet beds and bedding once or twice a month.
Keep an eye out for any mold in the bathrooms or kitchen. If you find any, clean it right away.
Think about areas you don't normally clean. Dirt and dust can gather on windowsills, on top of picture frames, under furniture, etc.
And don't forget about the pets themselves.
Your dog or cat can carry in a lot of outdoor pollutants into your home. Make sure you bathe and groom them often.
7. Check for Radon
Radon is a type of radioactive gas that's produced by the natural decay of something called uranium. Because uranium is in most types of soil, radon gas can get into your home through cracks in your foundation.
This gas is odorless and colorless, so you won't be able to tell if you have a radon problem on your own. You'll need to get a radon test.
Why is this important?
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. If you have high levels of this gas in your home, you're at a much higher risk of developing lung cancer.
You'll want to look for and get rid of this type of air pollution as soon as possible.
8. Stay Away from Synthetic Fragrances
They might make your home smell good, but synthetic fragrances release dozens of chemicals into the air of your home. This includes things like fabric softeners, dryer sheets, laundry detergent, air fresheners, and more.
You should stay away from these scents.
Instead, buy fragrance-free products. You can also use natural scents to help your home smell fresh and clean. This might mean mixing lemon juice with baking soda to clean in the kitchen or putting fresh flowers on the dining room table.
Improving the Air Quality in Your Home
The air quality inside your home might not be better than what you breathe outside. And poor indoor air quality can lead to poor health. That's why you should start improving air quality inside the home.
And don't forget about the filters in your HVAC system. If you don't clean and replace them when needed, you're just blowing extra dust and debris through your home.
Want to learn more about how to clean your air with your HVAC system?
Find out how to improve your indoor air quality here.