The Health Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality – The opinions expressed by the author in this and all guest blogs are not necessarily those of Gainesville Restoration and Remodeling.
The Health Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality
Here’s an alarming fact: according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the level of pollutants indoors is two to five times higher than outdoors. Polluted indoor air is also considered one of the top public health risks.
On average, people in the United States spend 90 percent of their time indoors. This makes adequate ventilation, air filtration, and proper HVAC maintenance important as they can help minimize exposure to airborne contaminants and harmful emissions.
Common Indoor Air Pollutants
The following are some of the most prevalent air pollutants indoors:
- Biological Particulates. This includes pet dander, dust mite feces, bacteria, viruses, cockroach exoskeleton particles, dust, pollen and other biological pollutants that are invisible to the naked eye. If you have an allergy, exposure to particulates can be harmful to your health. It has also been known to trigger asthma attacks.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Volatile organic compounds are typically found in pesticides, new flooring, dry-cleaned clothes, adhesives, and air fresheners. VOCs are also known to produce hazardous chemical emissions that have short- and long-term effects on the health.
- Mold develops when there is inadequate ventilation and excess moisture. Depending on your sensitivity, molds can trigger asthma or allergy symptoms. You can also develop respiratory illnesses or allergy-like symptoms when exposed to the mycotoxins produced by mold colonies.
- Combustion Pollutants. Items that use oil, wood, or gas like furnaces, water heaters, gas stoves, and fireplaces produce combustion pollutants that can be harmful to health. According to the World Health Organization, combustion pollutants are considered the most dangerous for children, especially those in third world countries. This type of indoor pollutant has been known to cause acute lower respiratory infections that can be life-threatening. Two of the most dangerous combustion pollutants are carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.
How Poor Indoor Air Can Affect Your Health
Poor indoor air quality can cause infections, chronic lung diseases, and lung cancer. Understandably, those with lung diseases are at a greater risk. Below are some of the most common indoor air pollutants and how they can affect your health:
Building and Paint Products
Remodeling and construction materials can emit dust or fumes that can endanger your health. Older building materials can also release indoor air pollutants when removed or disturbed. Building materials like furniture, plywood, and other pressed-wood products can contain chemicals that give off odors and gasses as the materials age.
When it comes to building materials, opt for those with low or zero emissions. Fortunately, many building materials are now produced using alternative chemicals that emit less harmful chemicals. Refrain from using products with benzene as it has been known to cause cancer.
Carbon monoxide or CO is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas. This highly dangerous gas is produced when fuels like kerosene, charcoal, natural gas, and oil are burned. Carbon monoxide can minimize the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Other possible sources of CO include wood stoves, camp stoves, and charcoal grills.
Breathing even low levels of carbon monoxide can produce symptoms like disorientation, nausea, weakness, headache, confusion, and dizziness. On the other hand, breathing high levels of CO can cause vomiting, anxiety, sleepiness, impaired vision, and impaired coordination.
Pet dander can linger in the air longer compared to other allergens. This can be attributed to the fact that they are jagged in shape and can easily stick to bedding, fabrics, and furniture.
Exposure to pet dander can cause symptoms such as sneezing, watery or itchy eyes, stuffy or runny nose, and shortness of breath. Pet dander can also trigger asthma and cause hives or skin rash. It can also cause contact dermatitis.
Dust mites are insect-like and very small pests that thrive in humid settings and feed on dead human skin cells. Inflammation or swelling of the nasal passages caused by dust mites is considered a dust allergy.
Dust mites can also live in curtains, carpets, bedding, mattresses, and upholstered furniture. Since dust mites are found almost anywhere, four out of five homes in the United States are exposed to them.
Lead is a harmful and toxic chemical. Exposure to lead can be very detrimental to the body. Lead can accumulate in the kidneys, liver, bones, and blood. In some cases, lead poisoning continues even after the source of the exposure has been eliminated. Children are more prone to lead pollution because their nervous systems are still developing.
Some of the ill effects of lead pollution include paralysis, anemia, vomiting, abdominal pain, decreased IQ, behavioral problems, constipation, increased blood pressure, reproductive system damage, and kidney and brain damage.
Considering all the health risks involved, it’s never a good idea to ignore poor air quality indoors. Just like contractor insurance, investing in HVAC maintenance is a wise idea. After all, proper mitigation begins with seeking help from qualified and experienced professionals. They can help you decide on the indoor air quality solutions that would suit your needs best.
About the author
Rachel Watson is the Senior Content Editor of New AC Unit. Aside from heading the company’s content marketing strategies, she writes articles about how to stay fit and energy-efficient home living.