Your home can be two to five times dirtier than the air outside. Dust, pet dander, mold, skin flakes, chemical fumes, cigarette smoke, and radon are some of the causes for an unhealthy indoor environment.
Indoor air quality is among the EPA’s top three health concerns. A few examples that may suggest poor indoor air quality include: stale air, lingering disagreeable odors, air that causes irritation (eyes, nose, throat), relative humidity levels below 30% or over 60%, tobacco smoke, excessive dust/allergens, and mold/mildew problems.
- Other potential problems that are not as obvious as those listed above, but can be detected include: naturally-occurring radon gas, combustion gases or smoke containing carbon monoxide, pesticides, asbestos from deteriorated insulation, and lead.
- Your home needs ventilation – the exchanges of indoor air with outdoor air – to reduce contaminates that can accumulate, causing health problems. Have at least exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen and preferably a mechanical ventilation system designed for the entire house. Vent clothes dryers to the outdoors.
- Below 30% relative humidity, people can be uncomfortable and can suffer from dry mucus membranes which can lead to nosebleeds and infections. In general, low relative humidity is only a problem during the winter months.
- Bacteria and fungi often grow in the tanks of portable and console room humidifiers and can be released in the mist. Do not allow film and scale to develop in the humidifier and use distilled or de-mineralized water.
- Wood smoke contains a mixture of gases and fine particles that can cause burning eyes, runny nose, and bronchitis. Fine particles can aggravate heart or respiratory problems such as asthma. Even limited exposure can be harmful to health particularly for children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions. Inspect and clean furnaces, flues, and chimneys annually.
- Too much moisture in the home can lead to mold, mildew, and other biological growth. This can cause common allergic reactions and asthma attacks.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) interferes with the distribution of oxygen to the body. All fuel-burning appliances (chimneys, gas ranges, heaters, and furnaces), car exhaust, and environmental tobacco smoke emit CO. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, nausea, and chest pain. CO can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving the home.
- Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) contains a mixture of over 4,000 chemicals including 200 known poisons such as formaldehyde and more than 50 cancer-causing agents. Exposure may result in inner-ear infections, asthma, and lung cancer in non-smokers.
- Radon is a toxic radioactive element whose source is the earth/rock beneath your home and it occurs naturally when uranium breaks down. Radon can enter the home through cracks in the foundation floor and walls, drains, unfinished basement floors, and, in some areas, untreated well water. Studies show the risk of lung cancer may be doubled or even tripled if you live for many years in a house built over soil with uranium deposits.
If family members are experiencing unexplained symptoms or illnesses that might be related to your home environment, it is important to discuss the situation with your doctor.