When talking of pollution, most people visualize large factories puffing out fumes from their chimneys. However, according to EPA, exposure to pollutants is two to five times more likely indoors. Pollutants can be harmful to the health of you and your family. In this article, we will look at some of the common indoor air pollutants and their sources.
1. Biological Pollutants and Allergens
One of the primary contaminants in most households is microbes and allergens. For homes with multiple occupants and pets, the quantities of these pollutants are often higher. Pet dander and microbes are also more likely to be present in small spaces with considerable human traffic and pets.
Microbes and mold spores thrive in wet, warm spaces. They can grow on walls, ceilings, furnishings, and other surfaces that often come into contact with moisture. The heat trapped between the walls or in the attic can encourage the growth of microbial organisms.
Microbes and allergens such as pet dander can cause adverse respiratory problems for occupants of the building. Children are especially vulnerable to these contaminants since their small bodies draw in more air due to their faster metabolism. Adults with allergies risk severe symptoms after exposure to microbial pollutants.
However, maintenance can prevent the accumulation of dust, debris, and microbial growth. Changing the filter once a month can help address indoor pollution. Cleaning components during routine maintenance clears the debris and leaves your heating system in impeccable condition. You can also use an appropriate filtration system to capture contaminants in your home.
2. Particulate Matter and Secondhand Smoke
Particulate matter is a mixture of liquid droplets with smoke, dust, and soot particles. The particles can vary in size from 2.5 microns to 10 microns. Some can be so small that they can only be seen through an electron microscope.
One reason particulate matter is so toxic is its minute and mobile particles. Fine particles can remain suspended in the air for longer than large ones. That means they can be dispersed far and wide from their source. Additionally, the smaller the pollutant particle, the more likely it will deposit deeper into your lungs.
Secondhand smoke has approximately 4,700 toxic chemicals, of which 70 are carcinogenic. It consists mainly of improperly burnt tobacco compounds. It can cause wheezing, sneezing, and respiratory problems such as bronchitis. Cigarette smoke inside the house can still be dangerous hours after smoking tobacco. The finer particles remain floating around your home for much longer after the smoke clears.
3. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) From Home Furnishings
Volatile Organic Compounds is a term that describes a large group of chemicals often found in household products. VOCs may include compounds found in dry cleaning products such as tetrachloroethylene. Other compounds include Ethylene Glycol, Benzene, Formaldehyde, and Xylene.
Because VOCs are often found in household items, they are up to ten times higher indoors compared to the outdoors. Certain renovation activities like painting can raise levels to 1,000 times higher. Such high amounts of VOCs will often be present within a few hours after the activity.
VOCs can cause both short-term and long-term health effects. Some of the common symptoms may manifest as skin rashes, respiratory system irritation, headaches, and fatigue. Some of the long-term symptoms include damage to the liver, lungs, and central nervous system.
You can prevent pollution from VOCs by taking a few practical steps. Ventilation is crucial for any activity that involves solvents or paints. During renovations, consider buying only a limited number of paints and solvents. If you have more paint products than you need, there is a higher chance of Benzene and Methylene chloride accumulation.
You may also opt to use household products with low levels of VOCs. Today there are Benzene-free paints and adhesives you can use to reduce the presence of these compounds during the renovation. You can reduce the levels of Formaldehyde, often found in molded plastics, by using BPA-free plastics.
4. Nitrogen Dioxide from Fossil Fuels
Another common indoor air pollutant is Nitrogen Dioxide. Some combustion processes can combine nitrogen compounds with oxygen to form toxic nitrogen dioxide. There are other nitrogen oxide compounds, but NO2 is the most toxic in that group. It is worth noting the toxic Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is different from Nitrous Oxide (N2O), which is abundant in nature.
Nitrogen Dioxide may be found in small rooms where there is combustion, for example, in the kitchen in winter. Another leading source of this toxic gas is poorly vented gas-fired central heating systems. If your furnace uses gas, consider having it inspected by a professional. At Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning in Jamesville, we recommend annual maintenance of your HVAC system to prevent hazards.
Nitrogen Dioxide can be harmful to human health. This is mainly because it is insoluble in water and can enter the respiratory system and get into the deeper parts of the lungs. Its adverse effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation. In extreme cases, patients may experience chest pains.
5. Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is another dangerous indoor pollutant that emanates from combustion processes. One of the reasons CO is so dangerous is that it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Therefore, it isn’t easy to detect without sensors or specialized detection devices.
According to data from New York City, 400 people were hospitalized, and 30 died between the years 2000 and 2005. High levels of exposure can cause loss of consciousness and permanent brain damage. At lower levels, you may experience fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and nausea.
Sources of carbon monoxide are usually from combustion activities in poorly ventilated areas. During a power outage, do not run your generator indoors or in an enclosed area. Unvented space heaters are illegal and are another common source of carbon monoxide.
New York regulations require property owners to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Detectors can alert you whenever there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. At Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning in Jamesville, we recommend scheduling maintenance before winter to reduce CO poisoning risk.
6. Pesticides and Solvents
Pesticides are used in and around the home to kill rodents, fungi, termites, and microbes. Some studies suggest that the risk of exposure is up to 80% higher indoors than outdoors. The most likely source of the contamination is a recent application of pesticides indoors.
However, other factors can determine the impact of exposure. Sometimes it depends on how toxic its ingredients are. For example, there are pesticides with ingredients that can decompose a short while after exposure to sunlight. In contrast, other types of chemicals do not disintegrate quickly and can remain in the air for longer.
Pesticides can be carried by water from agricultural sites. Contaminants can find their way to your home through foot traffic and accumulating house dust. Other sources may be from the application of pesticides on indoor plants or empty pesticide containers.
Are you concerned about indoor pollution in your home? You can choose from a wide variety of indoor air quality solutions that fits your needs. Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning‘s team has the requisite expertise to provide solutions for your Jamesville home. We service Mitsubishi Electric, Lennox, and virtually all brands of equipment. You can rely on Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning for unbeatable heating and cooling installation, repair, and maintenance, in addition to our air quality services in Jamesville.