What Does “Indoor Air Quality” Mean?

When we think about dirty air, we think of invisible or smelly outdoor air pollution or visible smog and not about the condition of the air in our homes. But the EPA states that indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, and lists indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental health risks Americans face in their lifetimes! Harmful effects to health may be felt immediately or years later!

What’s In The Air At Your House?

Apart from chemical pollutants, toxic biological sources include viruses, bacteria, mold, mildew, pet dander and cat saliva, pollen, dust mites, cockroaches and rodent droppings. (The protein in dried rodent urine is a potent airborne allergen, and you don’t know that’s what you are breathing!) Dust mites, the source of one of the most potent biological sensitizers known to humans, feed on shed skin cells and dander and grow everywhere but best in warm damp, environments. Virtually everyone is allergic to dust mites, but some are more sensitive than others. Together with dust mites, pollen and pet dander are the leading causes for respiratory allergies and rhinitis.

Short and Long-Term Health Effects

Immediate short-term treatable effects of exposure to home pollutants includes nose, eye and throat irritation, dizziness, headaches and fatigue and may resemble colds or viral illness. Those most likely to suffer are those with preexisting sensitivity, medical conditions like asthma and emphysema.

Impacts on health such as chronic respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer, which may be severely debilitating or fatal, show up years later after long-term exposure. It is wise to try to improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable in the short-term.

What Causes Indoor Air Pollution?

The EPA estimates the average person receives 72% of their chemical exposure at home, making indoor air the primary source of environmental pollutants for most of us. The first step is to know what causes indoor air pollution. No matter what kind of a place you live in, owned or rented, one story or two, detached or apartment, all buildings and furnishings discharge gases and particles into the air that cause air quality problems in homes. Insufficient ventilation and highly efficient impermeable building methods increase indoor pollutants by sealing the interior from outdoor air and by not carrying in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor pollution sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home. Also, higher indoor temperatures and humidity can cause some chemical and biological pollutants to proliferate.

What Are Potential Sources Of Pollution In Your Home?

  • Smoking tobacco and vaporizing products
  • Pesticides
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC) paints hobby materials and adhesives
  • Candles, air deodorizers, cooking vapors
  • Personal care products like hairspray
  • Household cleaning and polishing products
  • Dust mite waste, plant pollen and pet hair and dander
  • Building materials, adhesives and furnishings such as:
    • Aging asbestos insulation and flooring
    • New flooring, upholstery or carpet
    • Cabinets and furniture made of pressed wood products
    • Combustion appliances like furnaces, fireplaces, water heaters and gas stoves or unvented appliances which cause release of carbon monoxide.
    • Air conditioning systems may leak refrigerant.
  • Outdoor sources which may pollute interiors of your house:
    • Radon- According to the Arizona Geologic Survey, homes built on granite-like rocks or limestone that may contain traces of uranium will have more radon problems.
    • Outdoor air pollution from manufacturing or traffic exhaust.

What Can You Do?

The good news is there are several ways to clean particulate from the air in your home.

The REME Halo Air Purification System

The REME Halo attacks odors, air pollutants, VOCs, smoke, mold, bacteria and viruses by oxidizing them away the way oxygen turns iron into rust. It uses two technologies to do this:

  1. A germicidal ultraviolet (UV) light
  2. An ionizer which produces friendly hydro-peroxides

The UV light kills airborne bacteria, molds and viruses as they pass through the light field. The controlled oxidation reacts with organic materials like bacteria, dander and dust mites odors and VOC’s. It requires professional installation and the ionizer cell needs to be replaced every two years.

The Electronic Air Filter

Consider an electronic air filter because it removes particles such as dust, molds, pollen, animal dander, dust mites, and cockroach allergens. They are designed to be installed in the duct-work of a home’s central HVAC system to filter the air to the whole house. See “Selecting the Right Filter.

Consult your HVAC professional at Oasis about installing a more efficient air filtration system. 

(520) 648-1755! 

There Are Other Things You Can Do Right Now!

  1. At the very least use a more effective filter such as a medium electrostatic filter. Do not confuse a simple electrostatic filter with a more complex electronic filter or air cleaner which needs to be wired into your existing system.
  2. To reduce exposure of non-smokers and avoid toxic air and residues on walls and furniture, ask smokers to only smoke outside.
  3. Have your home tested for mold, radon, asbestos and formaldehyde.
  4. Shop pest control products and companies carefully and follow the EPA recommendations on safe pesticide use (https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/pesticides-impact-indoor-air-quality).
  5. Purchase low VOC paints and ventilate well when applying.
  6. Minimize use of candles, aerosol sprays, adhesives and air fresheners unless the area is well ventilated to the outdoors.
  7. Educate yourself about choosing low VOC furniture and low formaldehyde-based fire retardant upholstery and consider buying gently used furniture (Check out the EPA website and The Sunrise Guide for more information: http://thesunriseguide.com/the-furniture-we-breathe-home-furnishing-indoor-air-quality/).
  8. Have your HVAC technician check your ventilation system to make sure it is bringing in enough fresh air and exhausting stale air.
  9. Ask your service technician if an ultraviolet (UV) light might help eliminate the threat of mold growing on the inside of your air handler and condenser coil.

Keep in mind contaminated central air conditioning systems have been known to become breeding grounds for biological contaminants and can then circulate allergens throughout the home. Vacuuming and damp dusting can’t control these biohazards if your HVAC air handling system is contaminated. Ask your HVAC professional if installing a UV (ultraviolet) light system will kill viruses, bacteria and mold pores in your air conditioner before it gets recirculated back to your family.

Call Oasis today to find out more about IAQ products, filtration, UV light systems and duct cleaning to improve your indoor air quality

(520) 648-1755!

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References

A Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home. (May, 2008). USEPA: Office of Air and Radiation, Indoor Environments Division. Retrieved 12/9/16 https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/201407/documents/aircleaners.pdf   Printable decision-making booklet for consumers:  Written in easy-to-understand language for the consumer interested in the technical differences between various air cleaners available. Provides types of indoor air pollutants and air cleaning devices; performance of air cleaning devices in removing indoor air pollutants; general information on the health effects of indoor air pollutants; and additional factors to consider when deciding whether to use an air cleaning device.

Air cleaning devices for the home: Frequently asked Questions. (July 2014). California Environmental protection Agency. © 2014 California Air Resources Board P.O. Box 2815, Sacramento, CA 95812 In depth discussion on filtration: https://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/acdsumm.pdf

An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality. (updated July 21, 2016). US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 12/9/16 from https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/introduction-indoor-air-quality

Arizona Radiation Regulation Agency. Retrieved 12/9/16 www.azrra.gov/radon/

Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned? (October, 1997). USEPA: Indoor Environments Division. Retrieved 12/9/16 https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-07/documents/airducts.pdf  Printable decision-making booklet for consumers:  This publication is intended to help consumers answer this often confusing question. The guide explains what air duct cleaning is, provides guidance to help consumers decide whether to have the service performed in their home, and provides helpful information for choosing a duct cleaner, determining if duct cleaning was done properly, and how to prevent contamination of air ducts.

Spencer, Jon E. (1992). Radon Gas: A Geologic Hazard in Arizona. © Arizona Geological Survey Down-to-Earth Series 2. Retrieved 12/9/16 http://www.azgs.az.gov/HomeOwners-OCR/radongasinarizona.pdf

White Paper: Electronic Cigarettes in the Indoor Environment. (October 19, 2014). American Industrial Hygiene Association® Indoor Environmental Quality Committee and Risk Assessment Committee. In depth discussion: https://www.aiha.org/governmentaffairs/Documents/Electronc%20Cig%20Document_Final.pdf

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