It’s National Indoor Air Quality Awareness Month: Here’s How to Protect Yourself from Hidden Dangers in Your Home
What You Need to Know to Stay Healthy; the Experts Weigh In
October is National Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to learn about the importance of clean indoor air and how to protect yourself from pollutants and allergens.
According to the EPA, indoor air pollution has been classified as one of the top five environmental health hazards today. And in the United States, where it is estimated that we spend close to 90% of our time indoors, the quality of the air we breathe – indoors – can have a significant impact on our health.
The EPA goes on to say that poor indoor air quality poses a significant threat to well-being. Short-term symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, dry cough, skin irritations, irritated eyes, nose and throat issues, as well as fatigue. However, long-term exposure to poor IAQ can cause heart disease, respiratory diseases, and cancer.
“There are a number of contributing factors that lead to poor IAQ,” explains Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group.” He says they include building materials, cleaning agents, air fresheners, adhesives, paints, pesticides and biological contaminants stemming from poor ventilation systems. “There may also be dust from construction or renovation work that may contain multiple chemical compounds and particulate from demolition to construction materials including adhesives, wall and ceiling materials, and many others.” He also points out that often people aren’t aware of any of this.
What else causes poor IAQ?
- Mold and mildew
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Dust and dust mites
- Pet dander
- Carbon monoxide
What can you do about poor IAQ?
There’s lots you can do to improve IAQ in your home and workplace including:
- Test your indoor air quality to help identify common IAQ pollutants.
- Reduce mold growth. Mold can grow in any damp or moist area, including bathrooms, kitchens, basements, and any other areas where pipe breaks or water intrusion from outside occur. To reduce mold growth, keep your home dry and well-ventilated. Clean up any water spills immediately and fix any leaks.
- Reduce VOCs. VOCs are found in most manmade products, including furnishings, paints, cleaning products, air fresheners and personal care products to name but a few. To reduce your exposure to VOCs, choose low-VOC or VOC-free products whenever possible.
- Increase ventilation. Open windows and doors regularly to bring in fresh air. You may also want to consider using a HEPA air purifier with carbon filtration.
- Dust and clean regularly with a HEPA filtered vacuum to remove mold spores, dust mites, pet dander, and pollen. Clean dehumidifiers once a month. Also, bathroom exhaust fans are another source of mold but less than 20% are reportedly cleaned every few months as recommended.
If you have concerns about your IAQ, talk to qualified, independent professionals like RTK. They can help you identify and address any specific problems. IAQ assessments, which scrutinize in depth mold and VOCs, encompass thousands of mold varieties and over 70 prevalent VOCs. The tests, which typically take a few hours, can also test for radon and asbestos.
By following these tips, you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from the health risks associated with poor IAQ.