We always hear cautionary tales about outdoor air pollution and the dangerous health effects it can have on our bodies. But if you think you’re breathing clean air when you’re in your home, you may need to think again.
Indoor air quality is generally worse than most people believe, and research has shown that the quality of indoor air can even be worse than that of outdoor air. Many homes are built and remodeled more tightly, without regard to factors that assure fresh and healthy indoor air.
What causes air quality problems?
Poor air quality can arise from many different contaminants found in almost any home:
- Undetected moisture. Pollutants such as molds, mildew, dust mites, animal dander and cockroaches can result in excess moisture in the home. Poorly maintained humidifiers and air conditioners that aren’t adequately ventilated can also increase the humidity levels.
- Unvented appliances. Unvented fossil-fuel space heaters, gas stoves, ovens and back drafting from furnaces and water heaters can result in combustion products being released into the air—such as carbon monoxide.
- Compounds released from household items. It’s hard to believe the products we buy for our home can release products that are unhealthy. There are fabric additives in carpeting and furniture, and formaldehyde in durable-press draperies, particleboard products (cabinets and furniture framing) and adhesives. Be cautious of aerosol sprays, paints, air fresheners and dry-cleaned clothing.
- Radon. Radon is radioactive gas from the soil and rock beneath and around the home’s foundation. It’s colorless and odorless, and the only way to know you have it is to test for it.
- Asbestos. Asbestos is found in most homes that are more than 20 years old. It’s present when disturbed pipe insulation, fire retardant, ceiling and floor tiles are damaged or deteriorating.
- Lead. Lead is present in the air if lead-based paint is removed by scraping, sanding or burning.
- Particulates. These can be released from dust, pollen, fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters, and unvented gas space heaters.
How do you know if you have an indoor air quality problem?
You may have an issue with the quality of your indoor air if you notice any of the following signs:
- The air seems stale or stuffy, there is a lack of air movement in the home, or you detect unusual or noticeable odors.
- You notice there is damage to your fireplace’s flue pipes and chimney
- You have dirty or faulty central heating or air-conditioning equipment
- You have seen molds or mildew or feel excessive humidity in the home
- You experience adverse health reactions after moving into a new home; or after remodeling, weatherizing, or bringing in new furniture or household products into an existing home
- You feel noticeably healthier when you are outside.
What can you do to improve the air quality in your home?
The good news is, the air quality in your home can be improved after you’re aware of the problem and are ready to take action.
Have your home inspected by an InterNACHI inspector trained in air quality, such as Clear View Inspection Group. We have the equipment to identify pollutants and the expertise to advise you on how to fix the problem. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing purchasing habits, considering an air purifier, or installing a mitigation system.
If you have questions about your home’s air quality or would like more information, please contact us.
(Information provided courtesy of the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors)