You probably don’t often think about the air you breathe. As long as you don’t smell something weird or have a stuffy nose, it just fades into the background of your life. But many aspects contribute to the air that eventually gets into our lungs, and an unhealthy balance can mean a hazard for you or your loved ones.
Immediate vs. Long Term Effects
There are different ways poor air quality can affect humans. There’s a big difference between inhaling toxic fumes and inhaling dust. One requires immediate action; the other is more of a nuisance.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, short-term impacts of poor air quality are irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. These are usually short-term and can be treated by a medical professional. You should also seek an HVAC professional if you believe these health issues are due to air quality and call 911 if exposed to toxic fumes.
But other health effects can show up years later, like respiratory or heart diseases. These tend to occur after repeated or intense exposure to a toxin. There is still uncertainty, however, in how much exposure has a direct impact on these diseases.
Where Pollution Comes From
The EPA classifies the following as the most common sources of indoor air pollution.
- Fuel-burning combustion appliances
- Tobacco products
- Building materials and furnishings:
- Deteriorated insulation that contains asbestos
- Newly installed flooring, upholstery, or carpet
- Cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products
- Products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies
- Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
- Excess moisture
- Outdoor sources such as:
- Outdoor air pollution
Take stock of the likely sources of pollution in and around your home, so you can be better prepared to find the right solution. You can view reports on air quality in your area as measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by visiting www.airnow.gov.
Four Solutions for Air Quality
1. Find the Source
If you suspect or find out that you live in a poor air quality zone, or discover a new pollutant contributing to poor air quality, the best way to eliminate the risk is to eliminate the source. If it is a hazard within your home, you have control over how to deal with it. External sources may require more work and collaboration to solve.
2. Install Smoke Detectors
For more dangerous pollutants, like smoke or carbon monoxide, a simple solution can make you aware of potential pollutants. Installing detectors that can alert you when smoke or carbon monoxide are found can mitigate any issues when they arise. Note: Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that needs a detector to be found. If you discover a carbon monoxide leak, exit your home and call 911 immediately.
3. Improve Ventilation
If eliminating the course is impossible, proper ventilation is the next best option for immediate threats of pollution. If you’re doing any painting, remodeling, cooking, or other activities with associated air pollutants, open windows and use fans to circulate air. You can also get a whole-home ventilation system that consistently works to ventilate your home. A mechanical system will bring in outdoor air and remove indoor air.
4. Get an Air Filter
You could also get an air cleaning system which acts as a filter to remove pollutants from your home’s air. These also come in whole-home systems but are also available as standalone units, similar to a space heater or dehumidifier.