IndoorAirQuality

It may be one thing to expose yourself to the contamination of the city air… nay the poison of the polluted city air. You are generally aware that the smog of the city will accost your lungs, but you deal with it knowing that you will be home, inside, or out of the city soon enough. However, people rarely think about the poison that may be affecting them in their own home. Air inside your home can be up to eight times more polluted than outside air. To be a better agent and properly advise my clients on what steps they can take to increase the quality of the air they are breathing, I decided to research air quality and what we can do to fix it in our homes. The questions I set out to answer were:

  1. What does air quality mean?
  2. How can I tell if I have poor air quality?
  3. What steps can I take to increase the quality of my air in my house?

Where does one start when attempting the journey of enlightenment when it comes to air quality?  I started with one of Big Brother’s entities, the EPA or Environmental Protection Agency.

After wading through the plethora of information that can be found on various websites including the EPA, I have come to the conclusion that there are myriad materials and hazards that exist throughout single family homes that detrimentally affect the air quality (depending on the age of the home, humidity levels, and property maintenance or lack thereof). Some of those items include Radon Gas, mold, smoke, carbon monoxide, lead, dust mites,gases, chemicals, pests and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s).

These air pollutants can cause health problems such as sore eyes, burning of the nose and throat, headaches, fatigue, cause or worsen allergies, respiratory illnesses, heart disease, cancer, other serious long-term conditions and even death (through high concentrations of carbon monoxide).

So to answer the question: What does air quality mean? It means the cleanliness of the air in your home. In other words, how many or how few of the aforementioned hazards exist in your air that you can’t see but that you are breathing in daily and subsequently may be adversely affecting your family’s or your own health.

Now that you know what can affect the air you breathe the next logical question is to find out how to tell if you have poor air quality. After some research I have found that there are many products on the market that can continually test your Carbon Monoxide levels and many products that will Carbon Dioxide levels, VOC levels, temperature and humidity levels. There are also companies that you can send air samples to and they will test for other airborne toxins.

By far, the most helpful information I found when wading through the hundreds of tests and promises of products was a PDF put out by the state of Connecticut (click here to view). The short of the PDF is that there are currently no standards set for what is considered appropriate air quality and that all buildings have a known level of “background exposure”  and that “background exposure” seems to have no significant affect on our health. Therefore, we do not know what the safe levels of exposure are and a test might provide a result, but without being able to determine if that is a safe or toxic level the test is irrelevant. It suggests that you should not test if:

1) the results cannot be interpreted

2) results will add no meaningful information

3) just because someone wants it done

In contrast they do suggest that a test will be helpful when a known hazard has been identified and in the following circumstances:

1)When a test is part of an overall evaluation

2)When the date is interpretable

3)When the data has a descriptive component that helps to illustrate its place in the overall evaluation

Personally I keep a carbon monoxide detector and the brand I recommend will tie in with your Smart A/C Control. It’s the Nest Protect and you can find it here it also doubles as a smoke detector. If you are concerned about mold you can purchase a cheap hygrometer which will tell you what the humidity levels are in your home. Levels of humidity above 50% put you at risk of mold growth. Click here to see the hygrometer I keep in my house. Besides these items it seems that best practice according to the aforementioned advice is to do what you can to reduce potential air quality problems. Best practices include keeping your eyes, ears and nose open to problems, keep your property clean, use cleaning supplies that have less of an odor (“low emitters”), keep your carpet cleaned, make sure exhaust fans and fresh air intakes are clear and working, and Fix all leaks promptly.

In conclusion there is no great answer to the question of “How can I tell if I have poor air quality?” However, there are excellent products to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning (which can lead to death) and cheap tests to test humidity levels in your home to prevent potential mold growth.  Other than these tests, currently, best practices are a defensive approach which consists of some of the above suggestions. The same suggestions are also the answer to the question “What steps can I take to increase the quality of my air in my house?”

It seems that because of my initial journey to learn more about air quality, I have walked away with a few good sources, but overall the most important take away items in my opinion are:

  1. Have Carbon Monoxide detector

2. Watch out for water leaks

Leak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Monitor humidity levels

Hygrometer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Clean or change your Air Filter Monthly (and don’t cheap out on the filter… This will not only keep the air quality better but lengthen the life of  your air conditioning unit) Click here for my recommended brand.

Filtrete Air Filter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.Use “low emitting” cleaning products

2016-01-06 14_56_37-safe cleaning products - Google Search

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Keep your property clean

Woman kneeling at the floor cleaning

7. Increase Oxygen levels and decrease carbon dioxide levels with a simple house plant. A peace lily is a great choice.

PeaceLily

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It all seems very simple but it would amaze you how few people actually change their air filter. See the below picture of an air filter that we removed from a rental property recently.

IMG_3665 IMG_3667 IMG_3666

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on air quality the EPA has put out a Brochure entitled “The Inside Story: A guide to Indoor Air Quality” which can be found here.