6 Unhealthy Indoor Air Pollutants (And How to Limit Your Risk)

By on August 28, 2016

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Clean, fresh, indoor air is essential to your family’s health, energy and well being. Those with allergies or asthma often find relief when airborne irritants are removed from indoor air. Listed below are six air pollutants that can affect your home’s air quality and how you can limit your exposure.

1. Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can’t be seen, tasted, or smelled. It’s known to cause lung cancer. Radon sources include earth and rock beneath your home; well water and building materials. Steps should be taken to reduce radon levels if a test shows a measurement of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.

It’s easy and inexpensive to test for radon. Low-cost, do-it-yourself test kits are available in hardware stores, home improvement stores, or by mail. Be sure to buy a test kit that has passed EPA’s testing program or is state-certified. The kit will have the words, “Meets EPA Requirements” on the box. If you are buying or selling a home you can hire a contractor to conduct the test for you. For more information on radon, visit the EPA website at sosradon.org.

2. Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. Carbon monoxide can build up indoors and is dangerous to people and pets. At low concentrations it can cause fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease.

Source of carbon monoxide include: fumes from unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, leaking chimneys and furnaces, gas water heaters, woodstoves, lanterns, and fireplaces and gas ranges and automobile exhaust. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
  • Buy only vented space heaters (space heaters that install on an outside wall and draw air in from the outside)
  • Use the manufacturer’s recommended fuel in kerosene space heaters.
  • Above gas stoves install and use an exhaust fan vented to the outdoors.
  • Remember to open the flue before lighting your fireplace
  • Choose properly sized woodstoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that woodstove doors fit tightly.
  • Hire a trained professional to inspect, clean, and tune-up your gas central heating system annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
  • Do not idle your car inside the garage.

3. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is part of a group of gaseous air pollutants produced from auto exhaust and the combustion of fossil fuel. Nitrogen dioxide can cause eye, nose and throat irritation. It can also cause increased respiratory infections in young children.

Sources of nitrogen dioxide include: kerosene heaters, unvented gas cooking or heating appliances, and tobacco smoking.

To prevent nitrogen dioxide poisoning:

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
  • Buy only vented space heaters (space heaters that install on an outside wall and draw air in from the outside)
  • Use the manufacturer’s recommended fuel in kerosene space heaters.
  • Above gas stoves install and use an exhaust fan vented to the outdoors.
  • Remember to open the flue before lighting your fireplace
  • Choose properly sized woodstoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that woodstove doors fit tightly.
  • Hire a trained professional to inspect, clean, and tune-up your gas central heating system annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
  • Do not idle your car inside the garage.

4. Biological- Indoor Mold

Molds are a type of fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. Molds thrive in warm, damp, and humid places. Indoor mold can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; shortness of breath; dizziness; lethargy; fever and digestive problems.

Sources of mold include: Wet or moist walls, ceilings, carpets, and furniture. Poorly maintained humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air conditioners

To prevent mold exposure:

  • Install and use fans vented to the outdoors in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Vent clothes dryers to the outdoors.
  • Routinely clean cool mist and ultrasonic humidifiers according to the manufacturer’s instructions; refill with clean water daily.
  • Empty water trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators weekly.
  • Clean, dry or remove water-damaged carpets
  • Use basements as living areas only if they are leak proof and have adequate ventilation.
  • Use a home dehumidifier if necessary, to maintain a humidity level between 30-50 percent.

Get rid of indoor mold with Wet & Forget Indoor Mold+Mildew Disinfectant Cleaner. Wet & Forget Indoor is an easy, one-step  spray and wipe formula that cleans, deodorizes and disinfects. Just spray the surface, wait 10 minutes and wipe dry with a clean cloth, or air dry.

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5. Secondhand Smoke

Smoke from tobacco use can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; lung cancer and may contribute to heart disease. For children it can cause an increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and ear infections. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals hundreds of which are toxic.

Sources of secondhand smoke include: lit cigarettes, pipes, and cigars

To prevent exposure to secondhand smoke:

  • Do not smoke inside or allow guests to smoke in your home
  • Do not smoke if children are present, particularly infants and toddlers.
  • If smoking indoors cannot be avoided, increase ventilation in the area where smoking occurs by opening windows or using exhaust fans.

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6. Lead

Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are especially hazardous to children. Low levels can cause adverse health effects including impaired mental and physical development. Lead-based paints were banned in 1978 so houses built earlier may contain some lead-based paint.

Sources of lead include: Lead-based paint, contaminated soil, dust, and lead in drinking water.

To prevent exposure:

  • Do not remove lead paint yourself. Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition; do not sand or burn off paint that may contain lead.
  • If your work or hobby involves lead, change clothes and use a doormat before entering your home. Do not track or bring lead dust inside.
  • Keep children’s play areas as dust-free and clean as possible.

 

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