Indoor air quality is now understood to be as significant of a problem as outdoor air quality. Indeed, what good is clean air outside a home if the inside air quality is poisoning your family? It is important that you protect your home’s indoor air quality.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency there are three strategies to accomplishing this. Initially, the most effective way is to eliminate individual sources of indoor pollution. Some sources, such as those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed. Others such as gas stoves can be adjusted to decrease the amount of emissions. In many cases, source control is the most cost efficient approach to controlling indoor air quality. Plainly, if the problem is gone, it isn’t going to hurt you anymore.
Another approach is the ventilation improvement approach. Under this approach, concentrations of indoor air pollution are lowered by increasing the amount of outdoor air that comes inside. In other words, the indoor air pollution is diluted. This is inconsistent with the historic notion that “dilution is not the solution to pollution.” However, it is recognized as one viable method for addressing indoor pollution. Personally, I believe in eliminating sources, rather than diluting them. This is because sometimes diluting techniques fail and the pollution is allowed to persist.
Finally, air cleaning is a third method for addressing certain levels of contaminants. There are all kinds of air cleaners on the market ranging from fairly inexpensive models to very sophisticated whole house systems. Air cleaners vary in terms of quality, some being much more effective at removing particles than others. Generally, they are not designed to remove gases.
Radon is a common indoor air quality issue. The EPA recognizes the use of approved test kits to determine whether radon is present, as well as the use of a trained contractor in the event that it is present at excessive levels. Environmental tobacco smoke produces second hand smoke that diminishes indoor air quality. Not smoking at home, or if smoking in home cannot be avoided then increasing ventilation, are the proposed methods for addressing this pollutant source.
Biological contamination such as mold or mildew is gaining increased attention. While licensed contractors can handle severe problems, avoiding dampness, especially in dark situations and the use of bleach can often address minor problems.
Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Dioxide gases and release of particles can occur from in home stoves, heaters, fireplaces, and chimnies. Every year we hear about horrible instances of carbon monoxide poisoning. Often, it takes quite some time before a good diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning can be made.
Household products are also a familiar source of indoor pollution. Remember, just because a product is sold for residential use does not mean that it is always safe to use in any manner. And related to this is the issue of pesticides. We are learning more and more about pesticides, and that it is important that pesticide usage be minimal and only in accordance with the directions on packaging.
Asbestos is of course a severe health risk. Many old homes still contain asbestos. If you have asbestos, you do not want to touch it. Instead, you want an authorized licensed asbestos professional to address it.
Lead is found in several ways in the home. Today it is often found in lead pipes and in lead paint. Of course, lead can cause brain damage and other illnesses, and has a horrible effect on young children.
Finally, new carpet installations have been associated with indoor air pollution. Make sure that you understand what kinds of chemicals will be emitted by your new carpet. Make sure that you have reliable information from the carpet supplier and carpet installer before the project begins. Many people report becoming ill after new carpets have been installed in their homes.
Indoor air pollution is a significant problem that we are really just beginning to understand. Source control, increased ventilation and air cleaning are three approaches for addressing this concern. This is not a one time only issue; constant surveillance and vigilance are required.