We all want to believe the air in our home is safe to breathe, but because of modern manufacturing practices and our own habits, it probably isn’t as clean as we’d hope.
There are 5 common sources of indoor air pollution. In each section below, we will describe the pollutant, explain the testing process for each, and give much-needed advice about how to eliminate each one from your home.
Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollutants
Particulates can be any small matter that is small enough to remain in the air indefinitely. Outdoor pollution is a major source of particulates, but some come from inside as well: fumes from automobiles, dust, chemicals, smoke, and burn off from power plants are just a few examples.
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and smaller) can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, but all particulate matter is dangerous for respiration.
Volatile Organic Compounds
VOCs are given off by build materials, clothing, paint, and furniture. Some are harmless, while others are very dangerous, but it’s impossible to tell which is which without laboratory equipment.
Fortunately, you’ll probably know VOCs are present because of the odor new items give off.
Mold can affect your health regardless of whether or not you can see the colony. It only needs moisture and a food source (anything organic) to survive, so mold is very common inside homes and businesses.
Mold spores are released from growing colonies, and while these spores are invisible to the naked eye, they are actually what makes us sick.
Dust is comprised of mold spores, pet dander, pollen, and many other unwanted particles. Dust in your home is an open invitation for dust mites.
Both dust and the mites that feed on it can trigger asthma, allergies, and even skin conditions like eczema.
CO2 is a natural metabolic byproduct, but when it becomes unbalanced with the available oxygen in the air, it can cause breathing issues, sap your energy, and make you feel disoriented or fuzzy.
Testing Indoor Air Quality
There are DIY methods for testing the air quality in your home, specific to each type of pollutant above.
These inexpensive devices are available in most hardware stores. Any brand will generally give you a guide that is based off the EPA’s official Air Quality Index so you can tell where your home’s air falls in the spectrum.
Track particulate levels over time to get an accurate idea of the air quality in your home.
VOC detectors either give HCHO or TVOC readings.
HCHO is formaldehyde, and it is a common VOC given off by manufacturing processes, so it’s a fairly accurate result.
TVOC is total VOCs in your home. This reading can be misleading if there are harmless chemicals in the air for a short period, such as alcoholic beverages and essential oils, so it’s also best to track readings over a period of time and take an average.
Mold can actually be seen when it forms a colony, so that’s helpful in spotting it, but mold doesn’t always grow in visible areas.
You can usually smell its musty odor. If you suspect mold, home testing kits are available. Check moist, dark areas that are prone to mold. Call Pure Maintenance of Central Illinois for testing if you want to be100 % sure about areas that are difficult to see.
Visually inspect for dust
Cleaning your home frequently is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to dust. While you can’t keep all the dust out, you can greatly minimize it with routine cleaning.
Be sure to check unseen areas like underneath furniture and windowsills to make sure there is no buildup.
Although it’s normal to have carbon dioxide in your home, high levels usually indicate other issues. Poorly ventilated areas do not release CO2, moisture (responsible for mold), or VOCs, either.
You can purchase a CO2 detector online or at a hardware store. Many homes have them installed permanently, like smoke detectors.
Removing Indoor Air Pollution
Finally, let’s look at ways to remove indoor air pollution. Some of the methods below will work for more than one pollutant.
If particulates are the result of outdoor pollution, there may not be a lot you can do. You can protect your home with better weather stripping, and you can purchase an additional air purification system that can help your HVAC system filter out these particulates.
Indoor particulate matter could come from cooking or burning candles. To reduce the effect of these things, open windows and run exhaust fans or portable air purifiers as often as possible.
New items give off high levels of VOCs initially, but this lessens over time. Leaving these things outside for a day or two before bringing them indoors is the best way to mitigate VOCs in your home.
This goes for furniture as well as building materials and carpet. Once items are in your home, filter the air with a purifier that has a carbon or charcoal filter.
Repair water leaks – even harmless drips – to reduce the moisture in your home. This will prevent mold from ever starting.
Small mold colonies (10 square feet or smaller) can be killed with diluted bleach. Don’t hesitate to hire Pure Maintenance of Central Illinois to remove mold in your home if the area is hard to reach or very large. We can also remediate mold levels in your home to restore normal, harmless levels.
To prevent dust buildup, continue with your normal cleaning practices. Wipe down surfaces frequently and vacuum often. Don’t forget to clean bedding and upholstery when you dust.
Take your shoes off before coming in to keep excess dirt, dust and pollen from coming in. If dust and allergies are a big problem for your household, remove carpet and replace it with hard floors.
Carbon dioxide is always going to be present inside your home, but it does need to be balanced. Ventilation is the way to do that.
Opening windows daily or weekly to allow air exchange outside and indoors is easy and very effective. You can also upgrade your HVAC system to one that has better CO2 filtering capabilities.