The air we breathe in our homes is essential to our health and well-being. However, indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Poor indoor air quality has a variety of negative effects on our health, including respiratory problems, allergies, and headaches. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure good indoor air quality in our homes to protect our health and promote a comfortable living environment. In this regard, understanding the sources of indoor air pollutants and taking steps to improve the air quality in your home is essential.
What Factors Contribute to Poor Indoor Air Quality?
Several factors may be playing a part in your indoor air composition and quality. Some of these players include the following items.
Indoor Air Pollutants
Indoor pollutants can come from a variety of sources, such as building materials, furniture, cleaning products, and cooking. Even newly installed floors and rugs have an off-gassing effect that can release harmful chemicals into your home, circulating through your HVAC system and wreaking havoc on your health. Some common indoor pollutants include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), household chemicals and cleaners, perfumes, cooking fumes, radon, tobacco smoke, mold, and pet dander. Doing what you can to filter your indoor air to reduce the levels of these potentially toxic substances will have you and your family members feeling and breathing better almost immediately.
Insufficient ventilation in your home can lead to a buildup of indoor pollutants, as well as excess moisture that can promote the growth of mold and mildew. It can also contribute to carbon monoxide buildup, which can be dangerous to your health if you’re exposed to high concentrations of this odorless, tasteless gas.
High Humidity Levels
High humidity levels can create an ideal environment for mold and mildew growth, which can lead to respiratory problems and allergies. Excess moisture in the air can also cause other airborne pollutants to hang heavy; this almost ensures that you will breathe in your fair share of contaminants along with excess moisture that can cause respiratory distress and irritation.
Your HVAC system’s air filter plays an important role in removing indoor pollutants from the air. If the filter is dirty or not changed frequently enough, it may not be able to capture pollutants effectively and may even contribute to poor indoor air quality. Over time, this HVAC filter will also compromise the function of your HVAC system, allowing the release of debris and dust into your system, clogging up mechanical parts and causing your system to work harder than it should to regulate temperatures in your home.
Poor HVAC Maintenance
A poorly maintained and neglected HVAC system ultimately leads to poor indoor air quality. Dirty ducts, leaky air ducts, and malfunctioning equipment can all contribute to indoor air pollution.
Outdoor pollutants, such as pollen, dust, and exhaust fumes, can also contribute to poor indoor air quality if they are not properly filtered out of the air entering your home. In winter months, when everything is closed up tightly, this trapped pollution can further exacerbate your air quality issue, putting you and your loved ones at risk.
Health Consequences of Poor Indoor Air Quality
Poor indoor air quality can have both short-term and long-term health consequences. Some of the short-term health effects of poor indoor air quality include:
Eye, Nose, and Throat Irritation
Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat is a common short-term health effect of poor indoor air quality. This is caused by a variety of indoor pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), tobacco smoke, and particulate matter. Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat can manifest as itching, burning, or dryness of the eyes, nasal congestion or discharge, and soreness or scratchiness of the throat. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and can interfere with daily activities, such as work and sleep.
In addition to being uncomfortable, irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat can also lead to more serious health consequences over time. For example, prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants that cause irritation can lead to chronic respiratory problems, such as bronchitis and asthma. Children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions may be particularly susceptible to these health effects.
Headaches and Fatigue
Headaches and fatigue are also common short-term health effects of poor indoor air quality. Exposure to indoor pollutants such as dust, pet dander, mold, and mildew can trigger headaches and fatigue, often accompanied by dizziness and weakness. Prolonged exposure to these pollutants leads to chronic conditions, which can significantly reduce the quality of life.
Chronic Respiratory Conditions
Exposure to poor indoor air quality can also lead to more serious long-term health consequences, including respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Indoor pollutants such as radon, secondhand smoke, and asbestos can increase the risk of these diseases.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that can seep into homes from the soil and rocks. Long-term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer, and it is estimated that radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year.
Secondhand smoke is a significant indoor air pollutant and is known to cause lung cancer in non-smokers. It can also exacerbate asthma symptoms and increase the risk of respiratory infections in children. Reducing exposure to these and other indoor pollutants can help reduce the risk of developing chronic respiratory conditions such as COPD and lung cancer.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Studies have shown that exposure to indoor air pollutants increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Indoor air pollutants can trigger inflammation in the body, which can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque in the arteries). Atherosclerosis leads to heart disease and stroke by reducing blood flow to the heart and brain. Exposure to indoor air pollutants has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. This may be because indoor air pollutants can cause oxidative stress, which can lead to inflammation and damage to blood vessels.
Cleaning Things Up!
You do not have to be a victim of poor indoor air quality and all its related health consequences, provided you take proactive steps to improve your home environment. Take these steps to begin cleaning up indoor spaces immediately for better health and more energy.
- Avoiding smoking indoors
- Keeping your home clean and dry to prevent mold growth
- Using natural cleaning products and solutions
- Opening doors and windows to encourage fresh air flow
- Using ceiling fans to move stale air through rooms
- Avoiding using air fresheners and scented candles
- Using exhaust fans while cooking to remove harmful chemical byproducts from the air
- Changing HVAC air filters frequently
- Maintaining and servicing your HVAC system to make sure it is working correctly
Taking a proactive stance on creating clean indoor air will ensure the health and safety of your precious family, giving you cleaner, fresher air to enjoy all year long. At F.F. Hitchcock Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, we have been proudly serving residents in Cheshire and the surrounding areas since 1870, building a foundation of trust and reliability with the clients we care for. Providing services related to air conditioning, heating, plumbing, drain cleaning, and fuel oil replacement, we work with you to find HVAC and plumbing solutions that work for you, your home, and your budget. Contact F.F. Hitchcock Plumbing, Heating & Cooling today to see how we can improve your indoor air quality and safeguard your health.