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Health Environment Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Mold Mold Testing VOCs

Indoor Air Quality: How What You Breathe Can Impact Your Health and Comfort

Indoor Air Quality: How What You Breathe Can Impact Your Health and Comfort

During the winter months, coughs and runny noses are pretty typical. Often, these ailments stem from invisible enemies within our homes and offices – poor indoor air quality (IAQ). Surprisingly, more than 80% of IAQ problems are due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or mold, which can be harmful to your health, causing symptoms from headaches and fatigue to sneezing and runny nose.

IAQ is the measure of the air quality within and around buildings, especially in relation to the health and comfort of its occupants. Controlling indoor pollutants like mold and VOCs is crucial. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outside air, making it a pressing concern during the winter when we spend most of our time indoors.

The Impact of Mold and VOCS

Mold and VOCs are prevalent sources of indoor air pollution. Mold can trigger respiratory issues and allergies, while VOCs—found in everyday items like paint, furniture, personal care and cleaning products and air fresheners—can lead to severe health conditions. Short-term exposure to these pollutants can cause symptoms like eye irritation and dizziness, while long-term exposure may lead to chronic diseases or cancer.

How can you reduce your exposure to Mold & VOCs

  • Test for Mold and VOCs: It’s essential to identify the presence of these pollutants in your home. Professional IAQ assessments can reveal hidden mold and analyze over 70 common VOCs, offering a clear picture of your indoor air quality.
  • Choose Low-VOC Products: Opt for safer cleaning and personal care products that don’t emit harmful chemicals.
  • Control Moisture: Keep indoor humidity levels between 30-50% to prevent mold growth. Fix leaks and address condensation issues promptly.
  • Improve Ventilation: Regularly open windows to allow fresh air in and reduce VOC concentrations, especially on days when outdoor pollution levels are low.
  • Be Mindful During Renovations: Postpone activities like painting or installing new carpets to warmer months when you can ventilate your space more effectively.
  • Use Air Purifiers: Air purifiers with carbon and HEPA filters can reduce the levels of particulate matter, including mold spores and VOCs.
  • Maintain Your HVAC System: Ensure that your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems are regularly serviced to filter and circulate air efficiently.

Indoor Air Quality Testing

Maintaining good IAQ is not a seasonal concern but a year-round commitment. By emphasizing the importance of regular testing and recognizing the considerable effects of mold and VOCs, you are taking an important step in IAQ management. This proactive approach is key to enhancing the health and comfort of your living or working spaces. Enlisting the expertise of independent professionals such as RTK can be instrumental. They offer comprehensive mold and VOC evaluations that identify specific issues, leading you toward a healthier and more comfortable indoor environment.

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Healthy Home Lead Mold Mold Testing VOCs

Essential Tips to Sidestep Holiday Hazards

 

‘Tis the season to be jolly but ignoring household hazards could just be sheer folly. So, we’ve compiled some valuable tips to keep you and yours healthy during the holiday season.

 

Live Christmas Trees Can Produce Mold

This is something you’ve probably never thought about. Yet, the festive charm of a live Christmas tree might mask its ability – potential – to aggravate asthma and allergies. That’s because somewhere, hidden in those fragrant green boughs, there may be mold spores and allergens. To keep this problem at bay, keep the tree indoors for a shorter period of time, wear protective clothing while handling it, and consider spraying it with water before bringing it inside and carrying it out for disposal. Be certain to keep it a good distance from the fireplace and keep it well watered to prevent it from drying out. Air purifiers can also help in reducing airborne allergens.

Artificial Trees Can Also Pose Problems

Though you won’t be plagued by needles shed by live trees, artificial Christmas trees can introduce another hazard: toxic lead dust because of how they are manufactured. The older those trees are, the greater the risk that they will release harmful lead dust, which can lead to lead poisoning. When shopping for an artificial tree, opt for those made in the USA and check for labels indicating they are made from safer materials like polyethylene plastic (PE).

Christmas Lights May Have a Lead Problem

It’s common for Christmas lights to contain trace amounts of lead, that are used in making wires more pliable. While this doesn’t mean you should forego the festive glow, it’s wise to wash your hands after handling the lights and to clean the surrounding areas in order to prevent the spread of any lead-containing dust.

Vintage Tableware: Beautiful but with an Ugly Fact

Grandma’s crystal and china might add elegance to your holiday table, but these older pieces often contain lead. Use them cautiously, especially around children and pregnant women. If you do use them don’t leave any food or liquid in them for any extended period of time, the lead will leach into the liquid or food and be absorbed into the blood stream when they are consumed.

Indoor Air Quality and Scented Products Can Pose Risks, Too

The delightful scents of holiday candles and air fresheners come with a downside: they may be releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can cause health issues ranging from headaches to respiratory problems. Check labels and choose non-toxic scented candles made from natural ingredients; avoid paraffin wax and artificial fragrances.

Heavy Metals Contained in Menorahs

Vintage menorahs, especially those made of brass or ceramic glazed, may contain lead and cadmium. If you’re using a family heirloom, minimize the risk by cleaning it thoroughly each season and washing your hands after handling it.

Dirty Decoration Storage: A Mold Hotspot

Holiday decorations stored in damp conditions can become a breeding ground for mold. Check storage boxes for signs of moisture or mold before bringing them into your living areas. In case of mold, clean the items and consider having your storage areas inspected for water damage.

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Indoor Air Pollution and Its’ Sources

With the arrival of colder weather, when windows and doors remain shut, the risk of indoor air pollution increases. This pollution can come from burning candles, holiday cooking, and chemicals in household products. To counter this, ventilate your home regularly, use natural air fresheners, and choose green cleaning products.

Wood-Burning Fireplaces and Stoves: A Cozy but Polluting Tradition

Warmth and light emanating from wood-burning fireplaces and stoves may be enjoyable, but they also impact indoor air quality and contribute to various health issues. If wood burning is essential, use well-dried wood and consider installing a HEPA filter that will help to filter smaller particulate. Where possible, explore cleaner heating alternatives and create a cozy ambiance with a fireplace video and holiday music instead.

By taking these simple precautions, you can enjoy a festive and healthy holiday season. Remember, your health and safety are paramount. Stay informed, stay safe, and have a wonderful holiday!