The news media often covers outdoor air pollution. But indoor air quality, or IAQ, is just as important. Biological, chemical, and combustion pollutants may be present in your home. They can cause anything from mild irritation to long-term health issues. When you schedule indoor air quality testing near Clifton Park, a contractor should look for the most common pollutants. We’ll provide an overview of these so you’re more informed the next time your IAQ is tested.
IAQ Pollutants to Look For
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor pollutants can be broken down into three categories:
A wide range of biological hazards may be found in your home. Sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, shortness of breath, and asthma symptoms may be occurring for a reason. Since there are so many types of biological pollutants (including bacteria and other microorganisms), and so many tests, knowing what to look for is important. Some of the most common you might suspect include:
- Mold: Mold exists outdoors and indoors and travels via airborne spores that settle and colonize in dark, humid areas. It can also be carried indoors on your shoes and clothing. Mold can cause musty odors, while some types release toxic compounds that can make you sick.
- Pollen: Pollen grains from trees, grasses, and weeds are prevalent during the warmer months. They can float inside or be carried in by people and pets, and trigger symptoms of hay fever. The best ways to avoid exposure include keeping windows closed and staying inside when pollen counts are high.
- Dust Mites: Feeding off dead skin cells, dust mites can thrive in carpets, bedding, and furniture and produce potent allergens (despite being too small to see). If a test finds dust mites, their levels can be reduced with a dehumidifier or AC, impermeable mattress/pillow covers, by vacuuming/wiping up dust and washing bedding in hot water.
Chemical pollutants come in many forms. If you’re scheduling indoor air quality testing near you, make sure the contractor considers any compound that can cause indoor air pollution, irritation, or illness. These include but are not limited to:
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): These “volatile” compounds easily become vapors or gases. Containing carbon, they can occur naturally or be synthetic. Home cleaning products, disinfectants, paints, wood preservatives, dry-cleaned clothing, stored fuels, craft supplies, building materials, and furnishings may contain VOCs. Some VOCs are relatively harmless, while others are highly toxic, such as benzene and perchloroethylene.
- Formaldehyde: It’s a common VOC found in paints, glues, insulation, paper products, permanent press fabrics, and as a preservative in some cosmetics, personal care products, and medicines. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing for formaldehyde if there are strong chemical odors or if you have breathing problems and irritation only at home.
- Lead: Lead was used in pipes, pots, and pans in Ancient Rome and, more recently, in paint and batteries. The U.S. government banned lead-based paint in 1978. When airborne, lead can be inhaled or swallowed. At high levels, it can cause convulsions, coma, and death; at low levels, it can harm the central nervous system, kidneys, and blood cells. Test for lead if you have children at home, you live near a freeway or congested roadway, or your home was built before 1978.
- Radon: Radon is a radioactive, colorless gas that forms in soil. Cracks and holes in your home’s foundation can allow it to get inside. If radon particles get trapped in the lungs, they can cause tissue damage and lung cancer. The EPA has recommended radon testing in all homes below the third floor. Short- and long-term tests are available; a trained contractor can determine the best type of test and way to lower radon levels if necessary.
Combustion pollutants contain gases and particles that can be a hazard to your health and safety. They are produced from burning fuels. Testing for combustion pollutants can help determine what preventative measures to take. Your contractor should look for:
Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS): Also known as secondhand smoke, ETS contains thousands of compounds and dozens of carcinogens, which can put even non-smokers at risk. Secondhand smoke is a known cause of respiratory problems in children. The best way to prevent exposure to ETS and its health effects is to avoid smoking inside the home.
Carbon Monoxide (CO): This colorless, odorless gas can lead to unconsciousness and death in high concentrations. Even low concentrations of CO can cause a range of symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, weakness, and confusion. An unvented fireplace, gas space heater or stove, or woodstove can release CO. A malfunctioning gas furnace can also release it into the air. Other combustion pollutants include nitrogen dioxide and particulates.
Improving Indoor Air Quality
To improve IAQ, it’s important to follow your contractor’s recommendations. But you can make improvements even before having your home tested, such as eliminating or reducing pollution sources, ventilating your home, and changing HVAC filters often. A technician will look at the presence and level of a pollutant when performing a test. According to the EPA, here are some acceptable levels:
- Lead: No more than 0.15 µg/m3 over a 3-month rolling average.¹
- Carbon Monoxide: Less than 9 ppm over 8 hours and less than 35 ppm over 1 hour.¹
- Nitrogen Dioxide: Less than 100 ppb over 1 hour and under 53 ppb over 1 year.¹
- Particulate Matter: Primary and secondary particulates should not exceed 15 µg/m3 over 24 hours (as of standards updated in 2012).²
Call Grasshopper to Schedule Indoor Air Quality Testing Near You
Poor indoor air quality is associated with many symptoms and diseases. With indoor air quality testing, common pollutants and their sources can be identified. We can then recommend steps to reduce or eliminate biological, chemical, and combustion pollutants. To request service in Clifton Park, NY, and surrounding areas, contact us online or call (518) 241-1758.