What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality in Your Home and Business
We know that the air outdoors is fairly polluted in most places around the world, especially in urban areas. But more times than not, the air inside homes and businesses is far worse. The EPA concluded that the air quality indoors is 2 to 5 times worse than the outdoors!
Most people and children spend the majority of their day inside in either a home, place of work, or in educational facilities like schools or daycares. If they are exposed to high levels of pollutants during this time, there can be some negative side effects.
So, this raises two important questions: which factors would increase poor indoor air quality, and what can you do about it?
But before we dive into the cause of poor indoor air quality, let’s explain why it is such an important topic.
1. Why is Indoor Air Quality So Important?
Air full of pollutants can have a detrimental impact on people’s health, especially after long-term exposure. According to the latest medical reports, poor indoor air quality can cause health issues including:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty concentrating, confusion, and “brain fog”
- Respiratory issues
- Allergic reactions
- Triggered asthma attacks
- Flu-like symptoms
- Weakened immune system
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also linked air pollution to serious medical concerns, including heart disease, strokes, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and lung cancer.
The impact can be even more severe for people who already have pre-existing health conditions or allergic sensitivities. Further, children can be quite susceptible to health issues related to poor indoor air quality, especially as their lungs are developing.
Poor indoor air quality is certainly not something to be overlooked. Property owners should have regular indoor air quality testing to ensure that these pollutant levels are in a safe range.
But perhaps the best way to avoid this issue is by understanding what causes it so those factors can be controlled and eliminated if possible.
2. What Factors Can Increase Poor Indoor Air Quality?
Most of the factors that contribute to poor indoor air quality result from sources within the building. However, some external pollutants may seep inside, particularly in buildings with lots of open windows.
Here are a few of the most common sources of poor indoor air quality:
VOCs from Cleaning Products
VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are chemical gasses that emit from liquids or gases, often from cleaning products and aerosols. The organic chemicals used to create these products can escape into the air, especially if the products are not stored in sealed spaces, like a cabinet.
Household products that may emit high levels of VOCs include disinfectants, harsh cleaning products, pesticides, aerosol sprays, moth repellants, air fresheners, and hobby supplies like types of glue. Other common office and home equipment like ink for printers and even permanent markers will emit VOCs.
These chemicals can be extremely harmful and lead to health issues like allergic reactions, headaches, and nausea. Long-term exposure can have far more serious effects, including damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.
Unfortunately, many of the materials used in buildings (especially older ones) contain dangerous pollutants. Some of these building materials are no longer used, but they may be present in older buildings. For instance, asbestos was commonly used for insulation purposes until the 1980s, when it was determined that this material caused chronic lung issues and even cancer.
Many building materials still used today can release pollutants into the air, especially after recent construction. Pressed wood products, insulation, cabinetry, and materials containing formaldehyde can offset high amounts of pollutants into the air.
Mold and Mildew
Although mold is found in virtually every building in the country, high amounts of it can be the cause of poor indoor air quality. Mold releases spores into the air to reproduce, and if ingested, it can lead to severe health issues. Further, mold and mildew will create quite an unpleasant tell-tale smell which indicates poor air quality.
Since mold can quickly spread and destroy building structures like carpets, flooring, walls, and even furniture, it must be addressed quickly. It is highly recommended to schedule a mold inspection and testing service to determine if the levels are too high.
Carpets, Flooring, and Paint Fumes
Although many of us love the smell of a new carpet, this scent results from toxic fumes emitted from the material and glue. These can be quite harmful to breathe in, as the off-gasses can cause asthma-like reactions, headaches, and dizziness. It is always recommended to let a room with fresh carpet air out for several days.
New flooring materials like vinyl and tiles may contain formaldehyde in the resin, which can be released for up to two years after installation. While small amounts of this chemical may not be problematic, keeping these rooms well ventilated is important.
It’s no surprise that cigarette smoke is bad for your health, but it can linger indoors and lead to poor indoor air quality. Rooms adjacent to smoking areas are at a higher risk, so it is best to keep windows closed or move smoking areas further away from buildings. Childcare facilities should be quite vigilant and not allow smoking on the premises, as children are especially sensitive to smoke inhalation.
Gas Powered Appliances
Gas-powered appliances like cooking stoves, furnaces, or heaters emit very dangerous gases, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde. Therefore, it is very important to keep ventilators running when these appliances help funnel the fumes out of the room.
It may be surprising to note how common many of these factors that increase poor indoor air quality are – many of these items are found in nearly every home and business! While it may be impossible to eliminate every single one of these sources, understanding how they contribute to air pollutants is very important.
3. What Can You Do About Poor Indoor Air Quality in a Home or Business?
If you suspect that your home or business has poor indoor air quality, the first step is to schedule a professional testing service. Technicians use special devices to capture air samples and measure the levels of VOCs, radon, formaldehyde, mercury, and other dangerous pollutants.
The state department also requires many businesses of health to conduct indoor air sampling tests. The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) requires that any buildings constructed before 1979 must have an indoor air sampling test conducted before facilities like child care centers are opened. This testing must also be done in any buildings which contain potentially dangerous chemicals, such as dry-cleaning businesses, nail salons, or gas stations.
If the tests determine high levels of any pollutants, the first step is to determine and eliminate the source. Airing out the building by opening windows and running fans can also help. Air purifiers and HEPA filters should also be installed to capture the remaining pollutants.
Do You Need to Schedule an Air Quality Test?
Poor indoor air quality is not something to be taken lightly. The long-term effects can be quite dangerous, so it’s important to be proactive about this issue. If you suspect that your home or business may have poor indoor air quality, contact Paul Sakson today.
We offer radon testing, indoor environmental health assessments, and additional testing services in New Jersey to ensure that your property is safe for all occupants and meets the state’s safety standards.
Contact us online for a free quote!