Indoor air quality can be up to 5 times worse than the air outdoors.* Many objects throughout our homes and workplaces can contribute to poor indoor air quality by releasing gases, particles, debris and other contaminants into the air.
Homes are equally susceptible to becoming contaminated by outdoor air pollution as well. By learning about the common sources of indoor air pollution, it is possible to create a healthier home and work environment.
Outdoor sources of indoor air pollution
Windows, doorways and ventilation systems can all provide an entrance for outdoor air pollution to infiltrate a home and become trapped. The range of outdoor pollutants varies drastically. Everything from pesticides used for plants, insects and rodents to exhaust, radon and more can be carried in through the air or be tracked in on our clothing. Ensuring that ventilation systems are cleaned and up to date, sealing doors and windows properly and cleaning dust and debris from shoes and clothing before entering your home are some simple ways to help reduce outdoor sources of indoor air pollution.
Combustion pollutants are introduced into an environment by burning any number of common fuels including firewood, natural gas, charcoal and tobacco. The burning process releases colorless, tasteless pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide among many others.
Stoves and ovens
Kitchens are full of potential sources of indoor air pollution. Beyond the pollutants released by everyday cleaning products, cooking with gas and electric stoves can introduce a range of pollutants into the air. Carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and more can be released while cooking with natural gas, while both gas and electric stoves can release irritants from food ingredients and cooking oils, especially at high heats. Using a range hood is one of the most effective ways to remove common cooking pollutants from the air. Opening windows can also help to increase the airflow and remove these irritants.
Environmental tobacco smoke
Environmental tobacco smoke, more commonly known as secondhand smoke, is classified by the EPA as a Group A carcinogen and is linked to an extensive series of health effects including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and many more. Of the 4,000 compounds present in tobacco smoke, over 40 are known to cause cancer. Increasing airflow in spaces where tobacco products are burned does not significantly limit the exposure of secondhand smoke.
Fireplaces and wood stoves
Woodsmoke carries pollutants that can have immediate effect on your health, especially for those already suffering from respiratory problems, and can potentially lead to more serious ailments including cancer with long-term exposure. Regularly cleaning fireplaces and chimneys, burning smaller fires and using small pieces of wood that have been dried for 6 months or more can help improve the air quality in homes with fireplaces.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that has been used extensively in building materials, automobile components and manufacturing. Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause a type of scarring to the lungs called asbestosis which can lead to severe injury and potentially death. Asbestos is also known to cause lung cancer and a number of other lung and respiratory diseases. Because asbestos fibers are imperceptible to the naked eye and are incredibly dangerous, home repairs should always be conducted by experienced professionals to mitigate the possibility of releasing asbestos into the home.
Radon is a radioactive gas that is imperceptible to humans and is the result of naturally decaying uranium in rocks and soil. According to the American Lung Association, radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Testing for radon in your home is simple and highly recommended by the Surgeon General.
Commonly used in an array of manufacturing processes, formaldehyde can be present in building materials throughout your home as well as furniture and other products, especially pressed wood. Because formaldehyde is used in the production of items that may be part of long-term installations in your home, the presence of this pollutant may be long lasting. Improving ventilation and controlling the humidity in your home can help reduce exposure to formaldehyde. Some air purifiers, like the Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Cryptomic, are engineered to capture particles and continuously destroy formaldehyde released from household items.
While some biological pollutants like viruses and allergens can infiltrate a home from outdoors, others can originate from and thrive indoors. Humidity, standing water and certain temperature ranges can help dust mites, molds and bacteria proliferate. Other biological pollutants commonly found indoors include pet dander and fecal matter left by rodents and bugs which can be mitigated by regularly and thoroughly cleaning your home and heating and cooling systems.
Cleaning and self care products
Products we use every day to clean our homes and make our environments more comfortable can be loaded with harmful chemicals that can be released into the air and negatively affect indoor air quality. Bleach, soaps, polishes and a variety of cleaning solutions can have short- and long-term consequences on health. Air fresheners, candles and other scented products are another source of indoor air pollution that can reduce air quality immediately during use and have lingering effects.
Understanding sources of indoor air pollution
The more you know about the sources of indoor air pollution the better your chances are of managing and limiting the amount of harmful toxins and pollutants in your everyday living and working spaces. Increasing airflow in the kitchen, sealing gaps in doorways, windows and entryways, regularly cleaning, controlling humidity levels and installing purifiers like the Dyson Pure Humidify + Cool that automatically purifies and humidifier for a healthier environment can all be valuable steps towards improving your indoor air quality.
* US Environmental Protection Agency
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