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The Environmental Protection Agency has spent a lot of time researching indoor air quality. Since being established in 1970, the organization has gathered a lot of extremely helpful information about how indoor air could affect your health. By taking a look at their guidelines, you can learn a lot about major pollutants and how you should handle them.
The EPA’s List of Problematic Indoor Air Pollutants
First of all, it is helpful to take a look at what the EPA registers as a dangerous indoor air pollutant. To qualify as a topic of concern for the EPA, it needs to be something that is harmful to human health and exists in high levels in many human residences. Some forms of indoor air pollutants are what the EPA calls “biological contaminants.” These are essentially tiny organisms that naturally exist but can trigger respiratory problems and other illnesses. This includes things like mold, dust mites, bacteria, viruses, and mildew.
Many pollutants are a byproduct of combustion. Burning any material releases harmful byproducts into the air. Sometimes, this is due to secondhand tobacco smoke or fireplaces. However, it can also occur from improperly vented appliances that burn fuel. Gas, oil, wood, or propane stoves, water heaters, and dryers can all be a source of indoor pollution. In addition to problematic byproducts, they also release carbon monoxide which can be deadly at high levels.
Another category of pollutants that the EPA expresses concern over is volatile organic compounds. These are chemicals used in the production of all sorts of supplies. When the products are used or even when they just sit around, they can release dangerous VOCs into the air. Some common types of VOCs include formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene. Frequent sources of VOCs include:
- Chemical cleaners
- Furniture and upholstery
- Building materials
- Air fresheners
There are also a few other pollutants that make the EPA list. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is usually underground. It is possible for it to seep up through the ground and get trapped in dangerous levels inside. In older buildings, lead and asbestos may be a cause for concern. These are materials that can become airborne and cause a host of health issues. Certain pesticides and cleaners used in the home may also cause pollution even though they are not technically a VOC.
Dangers of Living in a Place With Poor Indoor Air Quality
The EPA has a whole list of reasons why you need to care about indoor air quality. Pollution inside your home can do a lot more than just make it smell funny or give you a stuffy nose. It can have severe and lasting effects on your health. Just being in a polluted area for a few hours can cause problems. When you are exposed to pollutants for years, major health conditions can develop. Typically, indoor air pollution is especially dangerous for children, pregnant women, seniors, and those who are immunocompromised.
Many of the pollutants that the EPA has guidelines about are carcinogenic. Behind tobacco usage, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the world. Several VOCs, such as formaldehyde, can also increase your risk of developing cancer. Furthermore, VOCs can damage the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. Mold, pollen, tobacco smoke, dust mites, and other similar indoor air pollutants can trigger dangerous asthma attacks. Certain molds and bacterial infections in your indoor air may lead to respiratory illnesses as well. Some pollutants like lead may lead to developmental issues in children.
There are also a host of other physical and mental issues linked with poor air quality. Some other problems caused by excessive exposure to indoor air pollution include:
- Eyes, nose, and throat irritation
- Allergic reactions
- Difficulty breathing
The EPA’s Recommendations for Improving Indoor Air
Fortunately, the EPA does more than just prove that indoor air pollution can harm people. They also released a huge set of guidelines for how you can improve your home’s indoor air. The EPA recommends that people improve indoor air by improving ventilation, adjusting humidity levels, controlling pollution, and filtering air. Improving ventilation, air filtration, and humidity control can all be done with HVAC systems. Controlling pollution sources is often a little more tricky.
Ventilation is important because EPA tests reveal that indoor air is always more polluted than outside air, even in urban environments. Homes off-gas a lot of toxic pollutants, and then these build up in small, enclosed spaces. If possible, homeowners should install ventilating fans and supply vents that pull outdoor air into their system. They can also regularly open windows and doors to improve ventilation.
Humidity control is needed to reduce the growth of mold, mildew, and other common biological pollutants. EPA guidelines state that humidity should stay somewhere between 30% and 50%. This allows for comfortable indoor air while preventing mold growth. Air filters can also help to catch certain pollutants like dust mites, so they do not keep circulating through your air. Use the highest filter rating that your system is rated for.
Performing regular indoor air quality testing and using monitoring systems will help you identify any problematic pollutants. The EPA recommends that all homeowners test their homes for radon every two years. This lets you know if indoor radon levels are above the dangerous level of 4pCi/L. If your home was built before the 1980s, you should also do lead and asbestos testing. These materials were used in building and painting homes, so you can test housing materials. If they are present, they may become airborne during home renovations. A final test recommended by the EPA is for carbon monoxide. Install a monitor that will tell you if levels ever reach unsafe heights. This can protect you from fires and appliance malfunctions.
The final thing that the EPA recommends you do is make smart decisions about what you have in your home. Try to select household products produced without the use of VOCs. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for working with cleaners, paints, and other chemicals. If you have combustion-powered appliances, make sure they are properly installed and vented. Regularly dusting the home, and controlling pests can also help lower pollution.
Protect Your Family From Indoor Air Pollution
At IT Landes in Harleysville, PA, we’re fully up to date on all the latest EPA guidelines and regulations. Our technicians can start by helping you test for pollutants, and then we can suggest ways to fix any problems. Depending on your needs, we can help you install purifiers to kill viruses and mold or improve the ventilation in your home. In addition to indoor air quality solutions, IT Landes also provides locals with heating, cooling, plumbing, and fuel oil services. Learn more about how we can help you by giving us a call today. We serve residents throughout the counties of Montgomery and Bucks.