Indoor air quality (IAQ) describes the quality of air inside and around a structure. It has a major impact on both physical and mental health, as poor air quality (indoors and outdoors) is associated with several illnesses. IAQ is extremely important because we tend to spend the majority of our time indoors.
Just like there are air pollutants that exist outside, there are also indoor air pollutants. There are four major indoor air pollutants, and they are:
- Carbon monoxide
- Excess moisture
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
3 Benefits of Good IAQ
#1: Allergens/Pollutants are Removed
Around 10% of Americans experience some type of environmental allergy, which can include an allergy to dust mites, pet dander, and pollen. Good IAQ is important because environmental allergies are more likely to develop than they are to go away, so it’s essential to protect the respiratory systems of infants and young children.
#2: Breathing is Easier
If you do suffer from allergies, either indoor or outdoor, then you know how hard breathing can be when your allergies flare up. Not much can be done about outdoor allergens (except for maybe allergy medication), but when your home is free of allergens you can breathe easier inside.
#3: You’ll Sleep Better
Cleaner air also has a positive effect on stress levels, and we’re more likely to get a better night’s sleep when we’re less stressed. Clean air also reduces the chances of becoming sick, which can also make sleeping hard.
How to Achieve Better IAQ
Because there are four major indoor air pollutants, it’s important to understand how they come about so you’ll know how to eliminate and prevent them.
Carbon monoxide is most notably given off by cars, but there may be other things in your home emitting carbon monoxide. For example, gas stoves can produce both carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Make sure you use your kitchen vents when cooking on a gas stove, and you can also open your windows for better ventilation.
Excess moisture is known to cause mold and mildew, both of which can be detrimental to human health. Some areas of the world are more prone to humidity and moisture than others, making them a prime location for mold and mildew if buildings aren’t ventilated properly. Dehumidifiers are great at reducing the humidity in homes.
Radon comes from decayed uranium in soils, and many homes are built on top of uranium-containing soils. This pollutant can get into a home through cracks and openings in the foundation. Although this is a naturally occurring phenomenon and isn’t always dangerous, a buildup of radon can be problematic. This is why it’s important to seal all cracks in floors and walls, and it also helps to increase the airflow and ventilation in your home by opening windows occasionally.
VOCs are chemicals that can be found in everyday products. Some products in our home release “gasses” that are colorless and odorless that are harmful to our health. Examples of these materials include:
- Air fresheners
- Burning wood
- Cigarette smoke
- Cleaning products
- Composite wood products
- Fuel oil and gasoline
- Paint and varnishes
- Personal care products
Short-term exposure to these chemicals can cause minor irritations, whereas long-term exposure can cause much more severe illnesses. Be aware of things in your home that have the potential to release harmful substances— especially formaldehyde. Formaldehyde can be found in CPAP machines, cosmetics, fabrics and furniture, and smoke.
Other Ways to Improve IAQ
You should change your AC filter at least once a month— especially if you have pets or allergies. Clean air filters ensure that the air being circulated throughout your home is clean and breathable. It’s also important to clean other filters, such as those found in dryers, kitchen vents, and vacuum cleaners.
Carpets and Rugs
Carpets and rugs are known to trap dirt, dust, and pet dander, and they can sometimes be hard to clean. If you have carpet, make sure that you’re deep cleaning it often to reduce the number of air pollutants trapped in it. You can also switch to a different type of flooring that doesn’t trap allergens.
Indoor plants are great at purifying the air, especially aloe vera, Boston fern, peace lilies, and snake plants. However, you should keep in mind that certain plants are toxic to children and pets, and you should also reconsider the use of indoor plants if you have plant allergies.
Indoor air quality isn’t something that many people think about, but it has a major impact on health. Work towards improving the air quality of your home and you’ll see an increase in your health.