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What Are the Most Common Indoor Air Pollutants?

Indoor Air Quality

Most homeowners in Sandy Springs, GA, are simply shocked to learn that the indoor air quality in their homes is two to five times worse than the outdoor air. When most people think of air pollution, they usually think of auto exhaust and factory smokestacks. While these are significant sources of pollution in the air you breathe outdoors, the pollutants indoors are just as important. Most people spend 90% of their time indoors, and a majority of that time is spent in your home. Here are 10 of the most common indoor air pollutants, their sources and some tips on how you can maintain better indoor air quality.

1. Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are vapors at room temperature. They’re released from liquids or solids, such as mothballs, air fresheners, glues, adhesives, and paints. They have short-term and long-term effects on human health. Their short-term effects include nausea, headache, dizziness, and fatigue. Their long-term effects include liver and kidney failure. Choose low- or no-VOC paints and other products for your home.

2. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound and known human carcinogen. It’s in many pressed wood products. That “new” smell is the off-gassing of formaldehyde. Some dry cleaners use formaldehyde in their chemical cleaning processes. Freshly dry-cleaned clothing may also off-gas the chemical into your home’s air. Choose products without formaldehyde. If there’s no formaldehyde-free option available, allow the item to off-gas outdoors for several days before bringing it into your home.

3. Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide comes from the combustion of fuel. A properly functioning gas-powered appliance should ventilate this toxic gas to the outdoors. A blocked flue is a common cause of carbon monoxide intrusion into a home’s air. Use of a gas grill or another gas-burning appliance for heat can lead to carbon monoxide buildup in your home. Most carbon monoxide poisonings result from malfunctioning furnaces or idling engines in attached garages. Schedule a furnace tune-up once each year. Avoid running any gas-powered engine near open doors or windows or in an attached garage or other enclosed space.

4. Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide also comes from the combustion of fuel. Some sources of nitrogen dioxide in your home could include an improperly installed gas-powered appliance, a gas-powered appliance that hasn’t been properly maintained, kerosene heaters, and combustion appliances that aren’t vented. Tobacco smoke also releases nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is a gas, and breathing it can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract. Chronic exposure to nitrogen dioxide can cause chronic bronchitis. People with asthma may develop reactive airway syndrome if they have regular exposure to nitrogen dioxide.

5. Particulate Matter

Particulate matter can come from a lot of sources. The particulates can be solid or liquid particles in the air. When you cook with oil, droplets of the oil will become suspended in the air. Using an exhaust fan can help ventilate these droplets to the outdoors. A range hood filter will also help remove these particles from your home’s air. Burning candles or incense creates particulate matter. Some hobbies, such as woodworking, create particles that may circulate through your home’s air. Choosing an air filter with a minimum efficiency reported value of 13 or higher will remove more than 95% of the particles 0.3 microns in size and larger from your home’s air.

6. Biological Pollutants

Biological pollutants include pollen, pet dander and saliva, mold and mold spores, dust and dust mites. Most of these items are allergy and asthma triggers. Even if a person isn’t allergic to mold, breathing in the spores can cause irritation to the nose, throat, and lungs. Biological pollutants also include bacteria and viruses. If someone in your home coughs or sneezes, they release a cloud of respiratory droplets into the air. The next person who walks through that area will breathe in some of those droplets, and they can get infected by the germs. Better heating and air conditioning filters and the use of air purifiers can get rid of bacteria and viruses in your home’s air.

7. Wood-Burning Stoves or Fireplaces

Many people enjoy the warmth and pleasing glow of a wood-burning fireplace or stove. Cabins and older homes may have a wood stove as a primary or secondary source of heating, but they’re uncommon in homes built in the last 50 years. When the wood burns, it creates soot. The soot is tiny particles that can be breathed, and they get deep into the lungs. Once in the lungs, they can cause inflammation. Long-term exposure to soot, ash, and smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces is a risk factor for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

If you use a wood-burning stove or fireplace, be sure to use properly aged wood. Avoid burning anything but wood in the stove or fireplace. Burning treated wood, such as old pressboard furniture, could release volatile organic compounds. Be sure to get your fireplace, chimney, and flue cleaned and maintained once each year.

8. Pesticides and Disinfectants

Pesticides and disinfectants are often stored in homes. If they’re not tightly sealed, they can release volatile organic compounds. It’s better to store these items in a detached garden shed or garage. Only buy as much pesticide or disinfectant as you plan to use at once. If you need to use a pesticide in your home, try to find one that contains a low level of volatile organic compounds. For example, diatomaceous earth may be as effective at getting rid of silverfish as spray-on insecticides that release volatile organic compounds into the air.

When using disinfectants in your home, turn on an exhaust fan. The exhaust fan will dissipate the vapors to the outdoors. Avoid mixing different types of disinfectants, such as ammonia and bleach. Mixing them may result in chemical reactions that create toxic gases.

9. Tobacco Smoke

Tobacco smoke is another common indoor air pollutant. It contains both particles and vapors. The particles in tobacco smoke can be inhaled, and they make their way deep into the lungs. Once they’re there, they cause irritation and inflammation. Even people who don’t smoke can experience the effects of secondhand smoke. Burning wood has a similar effect on the lungs.

10. Radon

Radon is a gas. When uranium in the soil breaks down, radon is one of its byproducts. Some areas have naturally high uranium levels. Radon gas gets into homes through small gaps, cracks, and holes in or near the foundation or crawl space. Homes with crawl spaces and sump pumps may have higher than average radon levels. Radon increases the risk of lung cancer. You can’t see, smell or taste radon gas. Radon abatement systems provide improved ventilation and get rid of the radon gas that gets into a home.

At Bardi Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing, we’re the trusted indoor air quality experts in Sandy Springs. You can also count on us for air purifiers, duct cleaning, and insulation. Our heating and air conditioning maintenance, repair, replacement, and installation services keep you comfortable year-round. For more information about the most common air pollutants in your home and solutions to get rid of them, get in touch with us at Bardi Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing today.

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