What You Need to Know about Air Quality Testing
Once autumn rolls around, our windows are not open very often. The fresh but cold air is kept out and the quality of our indoor air becomes more important. Air pollution is often thought of as an outdoor threat but air pollution can be an indoor problem as well. What products you have in your home, and the kind of ventilation you may have, will impact the air quality of your home.
Infants, children and the elderly can be more susceptible to certain products in the air, as well as persons whose health is already compromised, such as people with asthma. Yet most people don’t really think about what may be present in the air inside their homes. For those who are curious, a simple indoor air quality test can provide a lot of information.
Types of indoor air pollutants
Trying to compile a list of all the pollutants would be tough as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) can include a wide range of different chemicals. They fall into three categories.
These pollutants are gaseous:
VOCs: Volatile organic chemicals are chemicals emitted by many of the products and materials we have in our homes. Most VOCs can’t be detected by smell, and easily evaporate into the air at room temperature. VOC levels can be prone to dramatic swings. Paint stripping can result in levels that are 1,000 times the outdoor average. Simply storing your leftover paint cans in the garage can raise levels, as well as storing unopened cleaning products under your sink. One of the worst VOCs is formaldehyde, which is found in many common household products, including air fresheners and plug-in fragrances.
Radon: Radon is a radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell, or taste. It comes from the mineral uranium that occurs naturally in the ground and is found in every home, though the levels will vary and will not always be dangerous. Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer.
Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide (CO) is a clear and odourless gas that is poisonous. Defective furnaces, fireplaces, flues, and oil heaters are often responsible for accidental CO poisonings. Exposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal but a carbon monoxide detector can alert homeowners if the levels rise.
These very fine particles in the air can be liquid or solid and can get deep into lung tissue. They include allergens, dust, animal dander but the worst is secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke emits particulates but is also a VOC.
Humidity, breaks in water lines and flooding are frequent sources of biological pollutants. When too much moisture accumulates in a home, mould starts to grow. When mould is actively growing it releases gases into the air that can cause infections and other health issues.
Finally, any discussion regarding indoor air quality should include carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. While elevated CO2 levels inside a home are not dangerous, research has shown direct correlation between high CO2 levels and cognitive performance. The higher the amount of CO2 the more tired we feel and the less productive we become. Another reason CO2 levels in the home matter is that as CO2 levels increase, the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and micro-organisms in the air rise too. You should also know that newer homes are airtight which leads to higher levels of CO2. If you are living in a newer dwelling, an air exchanger is a good option to consider.
How to improve your indoor air quality
Some simple steps can drastically reduce the risks of poor indoor air quality
- Get a carbon monoxide detector for each floor of your home and make sure your furnace and gas appliances are checked and maintained annually.
- Get your home tested for radon. Read more about radon home testing here.
- Do not allow any smoking in your home under any circumstances.
- Get a dehumidifier and make sure bathrooms and kitchens have vent fans.
- Avoid using products with VOCs indoors and if you must, make sure to ventilate well with fans and windows.
- If carbon dioxide levels are too high, open your window regularly to allow some fresh air to enter and circulate. Or get an air exchanger that will also help eliminate VOCs.
- Get your air quality tested. The best way to determine the quality of your indoor air is to have it tested by a professional.
Winter is a great time to have the quality of your indoor air tested for pollutants and other contaminants. Mose inspectors are equipped with advanced devices to detect and determine the air quality in your home, or in a home you are about to purchase.
Remember, our goal is to provide you with everything you need to know about your home.