It’s one thing to recognize that climate change is exacerbating air pollutants and creating increasingly frequent conditions of poor outdoor air quality.
But it’s another thing when you realize that the air quality in your home needs to be improved. We can monitor indoor air quality to ensure there are no hazardous gases or particles present. What can you do to fix it?
Here’s everything you need to know about how to improve the air quality in your home.
What are the most common pollutants found in the home?
We spoke to Taylor Gillespie, Strategic Communications Adviser at the Environmental Protection Agency, who explains: “There are many types of pollutants commonly found in homes, including particulates, biologicals – molds, bacteria, parasites, mites, volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds (VOCs/SVOCs), gases including combustion by-products such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, heavy metals such as lead and radon.
“The type and amount of pollutants found in any home will vary and depend on many factors,” she continues, “including [the building’s] airflow and indoor environmental factors such as temperature and humidity, occupants and their activities.
While it’s logical to assume that many household pollutants come from hazardous materials such as paint thinners or other harmful chemicals, everyday objects often present hazards.
Gillespie says off-gassing from building materials and furnishings can trigger sensitivities, as can products like air fresheners, which can release pollutants more or less continuously.
“Other sources related to occupant activities, such as smoking, cleaning, redecorating, or hobbies, release pollutants intermittently,” she says.
Additionally, some appliances can also release high levels of pollutants, especially if they are unventilated, malfunctioning, or misused.
The air quality inside a home can also be affected by what happens outside.
“The pollutants in your home are also affected by the outdoor environment, which can be different depending on local outdoor sources, location of the home, and weather or climate conditions around the home,” Gillespie says.
Proximity to high concentrations of automobile exhaust, industrial fumes, urban heat islands, or wildfires can all be external sources of indoor air pollution, to name a few. some.
Use three basic strategies to improve indoor air quality
You will want to identify the main source(s) that may be compromising your air quality; it is important to remember that all pollutants are different.
While some, such as smoke or certain VOCs, can be identified by the presence of an odor, many pollutants do not have an odor. Pollutants such as radon and carbon monoxide are colorless and odorless, so it is important to understand that being able to see or not see or smell or not smell a pollutant cannot be used to indicate the level potential risk or harm associated with a pollutant.
The three basic strategies for improving indoor air quality are source control, ventilation, and make-up air cleaning/filtering, Gillespie explains.
1. Source control
To start, you’ll want to eliminate individual sources of pollution or try to reduce their emissions.
Monitor stoves, oil burners, and other appliances, especially older models, to make sure they release the appropriate emissions, and properly seal and store items that contain VOCs, such as paints and solvents, preferably outside the house in a shed or garage.
Another approach to reducing indoor air pollutant concentrations in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors.
As long as outdoor air quality is not an issue, ventilate your home by opening doors and windows, or running bathroom fans that exhaust outdoors, especially if you engage in outdoor activities. activities that can generate high levels of pollutants such as painting or paint stripping. , heating with kerosene heaters, cooking or doing activities such as welding, soldering or sanding.
3. Air purification
Finally, in addition to source control and ventilation, using high-efficiency air filters that will work in your HVAC system, and using properly sized and maintained air purifiers in certain circumstances can help reduce certain indoor pollutants.
Gillespie notes that the EPA does not recommend using air purifiers to reduce levels of radon and its decay products; to manage this, a home radon test is needed to identify radon levels, and hiring a radon mitigation professional who can help repair or upgrade your home to reduce the flow of radon into this may be necessary.
What else works to purify the air, and what doesn’t?
Removing sources of pollutants, proper ventilation, and air filtration are the most important things to ensure the air you breathe in your home is healthy, but there are a few other options we wanted to explore for complete these solutions.
Over the past two years, we’ve all gotten used to wearing masks, and while many of us are happy to reduce the number of masks, it still seems like a valid way to filter out all the unsavory particles in the air. ‘air.
So, does wearing the mask regularly and continuously help us breathe healthier air? Yes and no. While wearing a surgical mask can help reduce your risk of inhaling airborne particles, it can’t do much.
Dr Nicholas Kenyon, co-director of the University of California, Davis, Asthma Network, explains: “During the two years that we all wore masks, we saw far fewer patients falling ill with asthma, because the cause the most common illness that would land you in the hospital is a respiratory virus.These numbers have come down considerably.
However, he says ordinary surgical masks don’t have a huge impact when it comes to filtering out environmental hazards.
“What we recommend wearing for Covid and what we recommend wearing for, say, wildfire smoke is a bit different. For wildfire smoke you need an N-95 mask, not just a regular paper mask. But, we do know that wearing a mask was a good thing overall to keep people from getting sick from other viruses.
Don’t Bother With “Air-Purifying” Houseplants
The other thing that comes up a lot is houseplants, especially those that claim to be air-purifying houseplants.
Does it really work? Unfortunately no.
Review chief scientist and biologist Dave Ellerby says, “You would need to pack your home and office with plants to have a significant effect on pollutant levels.
A 2019 study by Drexel University found that the number of plants needed to impact your home’s air quality would be 10 to 1,000 plants per square meter, which, I don’t know for you, but there’s not enough room in my house for that many plants.
It may seem like the pollutants in your home are dangerous and scary, and if left unchecked, they can definitely pose a hazard. But, if your home is monitored over time and proper ventilation and filtration is used, you will be able to breathe easy knowing that you have created a healthy home environment.
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