The air you and your family breathe in your home can be quite hazardous to your general health. That is especially true during the cold winter months when doors and windows are kept firmly shut and homes are made airtight to conserve energy. Indoor air pollutants have been linked to various health effects, including respiratory problems, chronic cough, lethargy, frequent colds, headaches, eye irritation, memory lapses and dizziness.
Once you identify or suspect the real culprits, you can significantly reduce or probably prevent many indoor pollutants. Here are some of the most common pollutants you can find inside your homes and ways to prevent them.
Mold refers to forms of fungi that can grow outside and indoors. Some types are usually harmless, while others are hazardous. Mold can easily trigger some allergic reactions in some individuals. The symptoms of these allergies can include headaches, skin irritation, nasal stuffiness, swelling, coughing, wheezing, throat or eye irritation. Mold might also trigger severe asthma attacks in some people.
According to experts, the key to eliminating mold in your home is keeping humidity and moisture levels in check. Clean up any spills and fix leaks in your house as soon as possible. Keep your bathroom windows open or keep your fan on when taking showers. Also, ensure that you vent all the appliances that generate moisture.
Asbestos refers to mineral fibers that occur naturally in soils and rocks. Due to its heat resistance or strength, asbestos is used in many construction materials, including roofing shingles and insulation. Asbestos is also used in cars’ friction products and as a fire decelerator.
Exposure to asbestos for extended periods can increase your risk of developing asbestosis, mesothelioma, or lung disease. If you have products in your home that contain asbestos, keep them in good condition or have them removed by trained professionals near you.
3. Secondhand Smoke
Environmental tobacco smoke or secondhand smoke refers to a mixture of smoke generated by burning tobacco products like cigars and cigarettes. Experts refer to secondhand smoke exposure as passive smoking. Short-term exposure to smoke can lead to throat, eye, and nose irritations. You can also experience various health issues like wheezing, bronchitis, lung cancer, and pneumonia due to long-term exposure.
Secondhand smoke exposure might also trigger asthma attacks in some individuals. To avoid this air pollutant in your home, avoid smoking cigars, pipe tobacco, or cigarettes inside your house. You can have a smoking zone outdoors in your yard, away from the main living area.
4. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
NO2 is a corrosive and toxic gas from the nitrogen oxide family. It’s released from burning fuel, especially from power plants, trucks, and cars. When high levels of nitrogen dioxide combine with water, it can eventually form acid rain. This toxic irritates the respiratory tract, nose, eyes and throat. Moderate exposure to nitrogen dioxide can lead to chronic or acute bronchitis. People can also get lung injury or pulmonary edema when exposed to high levels of this reactive gas.
In low levels, nitrogen dioxide can lead to impaired lung function in vulnerable people like children, asthmatics and those with chronic lung disease. According to the EPA, it’s vital to ensure that all combustion appliances in your home are installed correctly, kept in good condition and used as directed by the manufacturers. Ensure that the air emitted by these appliances can easily flow outdoors to avoid indoor pollution.
5. Carbon Monoxide (CO)
CO refers to an odorless gas emitted whenever fossil fuels are incompletely burned. Gas heaters and kerosene lamps are the greatest indoor contributors of carbon monoxide, while vehicles are the main sources of this gas outdoors. CO prevents your body from utilizing the oxygen it requires to function normally. This invisible gas can lead to a fast heart rate, nausea, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. If CO concentration is high, it can significantly reduce the oxygen being transported to critical organs, leading to death.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a threat to enclosed indoor areas with poor ventilation because the gas is unlikely to occur in high levels outside. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your residence, have all your heating systems inspected and maintained by a professional annually. You can avoid using gas stoves to heat your home, and don’t use any combustion appliance without vents inside. Also, ensure that all your combustion appliances are installed correctly by a professional.
6. Particulate Matter
Particle pollution or particulate matter refers to a combination of some solid particles present in the air. Some of the particles are so big that you can easily see them with your naked eyes, while others are too small, and you can only see them using a microscope. Most often, particulate matter results from complex chemical reactions from various contaminants produced by burning fuels. It can also be produced directly from other sources like beaches or construction sites.
In the long term, particle pollution exposure can cause severe health complications such as aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeats, increased respiratory symptoms, and even heart attacks. People with preexisting allergic reactions and respiratory illnesses are at a higher risk of suffering from the adverse effects of particulate matter. Work with a professional to determine the exposure level to this contaminant, and take the necessary actions to eliminate it from your home.
7. Wood Smoke
Smoke refers to a complicated composition of gases and particulate matter or fine microscopic particles generated when you burn wood and any other organic matter. As discussed above, the biggest health risk from wood smoke originates from the smoke’s particle pollution.
According to statistics, many people still utilize wood stoves for cooking their meals and warming their homes. These stoves provide the benefits of warmth and food, but they can also emit toxic smoke, especially if your house is not properly ventilated. Switching to newer technology will help minimize health risks caused by wood smoke and enhance the quality of air in your home.
8. Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs
VOCs refer to gases released by certain liquids or solid substances. They include an array of chemicals that can lead to long-term and short-term health effects. VOCs can result from various products used in our homes, such as aerosol sprays, wood preservatives, pesticides, moth repellants, and stored fuels. Other items that emit VOCs include disinfectants, cleansers, dry-cleaned clothing, preservatives, paints, and air fresheners. Volatile organic compounds can lead to various health issues like headaches, throat, eye, nose irritations, and damage to the central nervous system, kidney, and liver.
There are many sources of indoor pollutants, but this article has only highlighted some of the common ones. These air contaminants can affect your comfort and health. Some health complications can show up years later after long-term exposure or immediately after short-term or single exposure. If you suspect air pollution in your house or poor indoor air quality, it would be best to contact professionals from Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating to carry out an air quality assessment. We will also create customized solutions to clean your indoor air and restore your comfort.
Our company offers other services, too, including quality custom ductwork, AC and heating repairs, installation, and maintenance services. If you live in Hanover, MD, and you’re experiencing air quality issues, call us today, and our reliable team will help restore safe and breathable air in your home.