Discovering indoor air quality

When you look around your home, does it look clean, smell clean? Do you give the indoor air quality and health of your family any thought when you look and smell your home? If your home is clean and unless you cooked fish or turnup greens last night, and nobody is apparently sick, you probably aren’t concerned about the indoor air quality

You may not be aware of what your home’s indoor air quality is affected by, but it may not be as clean and healthy as you think. Even without the fish, turnup greens, wet dog, or anyone being sick. Today, the indoor air quality of our homes isn’t much better, maybe not as good, as the outdoor air quality. 

What causes poor air quality in home?

According to the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, a government agency, indoor air pollution is caused by gases or particles being released into the air inside our homes and businesses. Because most structures have inadequate ventilation, the indoor pollutants aren’t being diluted and carried outdoor. 

Those gases and particles that are creating poor indoor air quality primarily come from the following five things, most of which are found in every home or business: 

  1. Household Cleaning Supplies: While these help you keep your home or business clean, they also cause indoor air pollution. As you use those cleaning supplies, they are circulated in the air that everyone is breathing, many of them are toxic as the warning labels advise.
  2. New Carpet: The adhesive used for installing and the vinyl backing of new carpet can sometimes release chemicals, referred to as off-gassing. Some of those chemicals create poor indoor air quality, causing breathing issues, dizziness, headaches, and more. Most of that off-gassing has dissipated during the first month or so after installation, but the chemicals that they are made from can have an effect on the indoor air quality for up to five years. If you’re getting new carpeting, make sure your home or business has extra ventilation for three to five days after installation.
  3. Paint Compounds: Household and indoor paint have an abundance of VOCS (volatile organic compounds). So, when you’re getting the house or office repainted, some may start experiencing headaches. Those VOCs are gone by the time the paint dries, but there may still be some lingering, affecting the indoor air quality. Again, make sure there is extra ventilation in the house or office for three to five days after the painting is completed.
  4. Mildew and Mold: Mold forms in homes and businesses from too much moisture in the air, and this creates poor indoor air quality from the microscopic spores of that mold. The humidity levels need to be maintained even so that they aren’t too high, even using a dehumidifier if needed is recommended. 
  5. Inadequate Ventilation: When there is an inadequate ventilation system, the indoor and outdoor air can’t circulate properly. The air intake and exhausts for every room in your home or business should be checked and cleaned, removing any dust or pollutants. With a proper ventilation system, indoor pollutants are reduced. Upgrading the air conditioning system with a built-in dehumidifier can help the humidity levels and indoor air quality of your home or business. 
  6. Cigarette Smoke: One single cigarette has hundreds of toxic substances, the biggest contributor to poor indoor air quality. Requiring smokers to go outside helps keep the indoor air quality healthy and adding air purifiers inside the home or office can help with any lingering smoke that follows the smokers inside. 

What are the symptoms of bad air quality in the home?

Here are a few indication that you may have poor indoor air quality in your home or business: 

  1. Allergies: Yes, the change in the seasons and weather can irritate allergies, but so can poor indoor air quality. There is a wide range of materials that can irritate allergies like dust, pollen, and more. Any excessive coughing and congestion, headaches and sneezing, watery eyes, or bloody noses are typical symptoms. 
  2. Symptoms: When contaminants like asbestos, mold, or hazardous chemicals are in the air, mild ailments and health symptoms will worsen as they affect the occupant’s health. When there are new complaints or an increase in complaints from anyone with breathing issues, chills, dizziness, fever, hearing issues,  muscle aches, nausea, or rashes, there could be something extremely wrong with the indoor air quality that should be checked out by a professional. 
  3. Lungs: When the chemical used in a home or business is left unaddressed, it can affect the lungs of everyone living or work inside quickly. In an extreme situation, severe health issues can develop like bronchitis or pneumonia from the airborne particles creating poor indoor air quality. 
  4. Environment: When there is an increase in family members or employees with health issues, it is time to have the indoor air quality checked and take the steps needed to improve the environment.  
  5. Improvements or Repairs: If there are improvements or repairs going on inside your home or business, like flooring, painting, or even new furniture being brought in, they can have an effect on the indoor air quality. There are chemicals in all of these things and the particles from them collect in the HVAC system and are circulated throughout the home or office,  causing a negative effect. Your home or business’s indoor air quality and HVAC systems are intricately connected and should be watched. 
  6. Air Distribution: Another issue that can cause poor indoor air quality are inconsistencies throughout your home or business. When the air is cold in area and warm in another, then the air from your HVAC system isn’t being distributed evenly. Have the HVAC system inspected and attended to by a professional contractor and the air duct system professionally cleaned will usually eliminate this problem. 

What is acceptable indoor air quality?

From smoking to vehicle exhaust, the  sources of things that have an effect on our indoor air quality, like NO2, PM2.5, and  VOCs.  While the government can put limits and standards on businesses to maintain healthier indoor air quality, there isn’t much they can do for private residences.  Some of the limits imposed to create acceptable indoor air quality are: 

  • PM2.5: A particulate matter has a threshold limit of 25 μg/m3.
  • CO: This colorless and odorless lethal gas, CO, (carbon monoxide) has an exposure recommendation of  35 ppm.
  • CO2: A natural airborne compound has an average of 300 to 400ppm of outdoor concentration and an occupational limit of 5,000 ppm TLV-TWA, 30,000 ppm TLV-STEL.
  • Radon: This radioactive gas is created from the decay of Uranium is carcinogenic with no safe exposure levels, but the EPA has set the level at 4 pCi/L.
  • PAHs: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons contains organic compounds that are semi-volatile  with a threshold limit of 10 ppm.
  • Formaldehyde: A common VOC that emits from cooking, furniture, and incense burning, has a threshold limit of 0.1 ppm TLV-TWA, 0.3 ppm TLV-STEL.
  • Methylene chloride or dichloromethane: Both are found in solvents and has a threshold of 250 ppm with warning that exposure for a long-term and central nervous system problems are related.
  • Nitrogen dioxide: (NO2) has a one hour standard of 100 ppb limit.

Who regulates indoor air quality?

While the outdoor air quality is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, they have no governing over the indoor air quality. However, what they do to help with indoor air quality is advise the public and businesses on what affects it and how it can be improved. The EPA also governs the chemicals and other factors that make up the things that are used inside homes and businesses, such as carpeting, paint, and more.  

What are the four most dangerous indoor air pollutants?

Construction materials, furnishings and other materials or products release pollutants on a continuous basis, creating poor indoor quality. Add activities like cleaning,  hobbies, redecorating, or smoking, and the indoor air quality goes down more.  Appliances that are malfunctioning or unvented, improper use of products add to the degrading of indoor air quality. Four pollutants that are found in these things are: 

  • Asbestos.
  • Carbon Monoxide 
  • Nitrogen Dioxide 
  • Radon 

After reading this piece, you may wonder when it comes to indoor air quality vs outdoor, is the indoor air better? Surprising, telling somebody to go outside and get some fresh air is good advice. The indoor air quality is more often worse than the outdoor air, which could be in part due to the EPA guidelines on the things they have control over. Call 817-244-2511 today for your indoor air quality testing in Fort Worth, TX.


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