Every stone seems to harbor some health risk beneath. Everything from driving to work in the morning, to hiking a mountain trail on a Saturday, to sitting on your sofa and watching a movie (sedentary lifestyle warnings, anyone?) comes with a cautionary tale.
Some risks are unavoidable, like driving to work. Unless you hit the lottery, you probably don’t have much of a choice! Others can be mitigated. You can sure get up off that couch and do a few sit-ups.
Another common risk, that of indoor air pollution, is a real and sometimes devastating one. So when should you worry and when can you breathe easy?
Here are some things that contribute to indoor air pollution in the average household. If any of these sound like your home, it might be time to consider taking action. Air filtration, air purifiers and other steps can go a long way to protecting your health and that of your family.
You Have Pets
Cats and dogs are the most obvious culprits, but even birds, mice and cuddly guinea pigs can affect the air quality in your home. All of them produce dander, and that can make its way onto clothing, bedding and into the air.
Pet dander is lighter than most airborne allergens, which means it can linger in the air longer. Anyone will allergies knows what misery can ensue.
But dander isn’t the only problem. Odors and even particles from urine in litter boxes can contaminate the air in your home, contributing to allergies, breathing problems, asthma, illness and general irritation and discomfort.
Birds pose an added risk, since they can have mites. These imperceptible insect-like animals produce their own form of dander which is another source of allergens entirely. And mice and other rodents produce allergens in their saliva and urine, too.
If all of that is making you feel a little icky about what might be floating around in your air, it should! Pet dander and allergens are a common source of breathing problems and other allergic reactions in their doting humans.
You probably don’t have to ditch Fido, but it would be wise to take measures to filter and purify the air in your home if you’ve got a furry family member.
You Have Kids
It’s questionable whether they shed as much as Fido, but your own kids can be a health risk for the whole family.
Those little buggers are in and out, from school to a friend’s house to a sports activity or even a job. And with them comes germs. If you’ve ever experienced the infamous outbreak of springtime chicken pox or wintertime flu, you know how entire classrooms can fall like dominoes, with families next.
Germs are resilient things, and can linger and spread, on surfaces like countertops and banisters, and in the air. If it seems like your family spends entire winters recycling each other’s colds, air quality may be a problem.
Since you’re definitely not getting rid of the kids, air purification can go a long way to reducing indoor air pollution and subsequently reducing illness. Systems that work by filtering air and releasing hydrogen peroxide particles to kill germs on contact can keep everyone healthy all year long.
You Have Energy Star Windows
They can save you substantially on energy costs over time, but Energy Star windows may be a little too efficient for your health.
Drafty windows are no fun on a cold winter day but they do have the unintended benefit of letting fresh air into your home, which in turn vents out not-so-fresh air. This doesn’t make a case against Energy Star windows, but it is something to be mindful of.
Proper ventilation is an important part of good indoor air quality, so if your windows (and even doors) are well-sealed against the slightest draft, consider installing a ventilation system to allow for proper airflow.
You Live In A New Construction
Chances are those Energy Star windows didn’t get installed in an old, sagging window frame. Either you’ve gone through some major renovations or you live in a relatively new construction where not only the windows and doors are sealed, but everything is sealed up tight as can be.
In the past, air would leak into homes through small cracks and holes that most people never even knew existed. But now, with more emphasis placed on energy efficiency, natural ventilation in homes is drastically reduced.
You can certainly open your windows and doors, but most people don’t, especially if family members have allergies. Counterintuitively, the air in your well-sealed home could be making them worse.
You may not be letting pollen drift in but you aren’t letting anything out, either. And that includes dust, dander, chemicals from carpets, flooring and upholstery, vapors from cleaning products, particles from personal care products like cologne and hairspray, or fumes from candles and cooking. Even air fresheners, which you may be using to counteract some of that stuffiness, could be contributing to it as scents and chemicals lingers indefinitely in the air.
Before you give up on efficiency to live out your days in a cabin in the woods, you can do something about your home’s indoor air quality that won’t require such drastic measures.
Air filters and purifiers can help by keeping air cleaner and reducing airborne particles.
Mechanical ventilation systems can take the place of natural ones. Rather than letting allergens, particles and even germs build up and stay trapped in your home, a ventilation system will exchange that stale air for fresh in a controlled way.
Indoor air pollution can pose a health risk immediately (in the case of people with asthma or respiratory conditions) or problems can build up over time. Recurring headaches, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, and even fatigue are all symptoms of poor air quality.
But with a few changes, you can be breathing easier and staying healthier. Start by controlling the sources of pollution as best as you can, then be sure your home is equipped with proper ventilation and purification systems.
If you have questions or would like to know more about improving your indoor air quality, contact us for a free in-home consultation and estimate.