Heating and Cooling

How Poor Indoor Air Quality Can Hurt Your Health

Plus, 6 ways your HVAC System Can Help Mitigate Your Concerns

The inside of your home or business may be anywhere from two to five times as toxic as the air outside, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But that shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider the number of harmful substances that can be in found your home or office. This article looks at some of the common causes of poor indoor air quality, how to know if your health problems are the result of indoor pollutants, and how to mitigate them.

Common Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality

There are many indoor air pollution sources. Here are 5 of the most common causes:

Insufficient Ventilation. Insufficient ventilation can result in air becoming trapped in the building, which can cause pollutants, allergens and other harmful materials to build up. Healthy buildings have a sufficient flow of fresh air through windows and doors, exhaust fans and whole house fans, for a good indoor air quality.

Activities of Occupants. The activities of building occupants, such as smoking, cleaning with toxic chemicals, deodorizing with a sprayed scent or candle, and working with chemicals, can have a negative effect on other occupants. They cause allergies and other health problems, such as allergies and asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease. Building owners should limit smoking in or close to buildings and set guidelines for chemical usage within buildings that don’t have adequate ventilation.

Burning Fuel. Appliances that burn any kind of fuel, including gas stoves, water heaters, furnaces and fireplaces, can release dangerous chemicals if they’re not properly installed and vented outside. These chemicals include carbon monoxide and nitrous dioxide. Both are odorless and colorless gases that can be harmful to your health. Be sure to install CO detectors in your home or business as a warning system if your home uses gas for heating your home and water.

Building Materials and Furnishings. The prevalence of cancer following the use of asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s should be a good reason for building owners to know what they’re facilities are made from and what goes into them. Asbestos, fiberglass and formaldehyde are just a few of the many harmful substances that can be found in buildings today. However, ensuring there’s proper ventilation and knowing how to handle toxic substances goes a long way in preventing indoor air pollution in your home or office.

Humidity. You may find mold, fungus and bacteria in the air in buildings prone to high levels of moisture and standing water. In fact, these allergens can thrive in environments that are not properly dried out regularly. Use fans and dehumidifiers to mitigate excessive moisture in your building.

Symptoms of Poor Indoor Air Quality

The average American stays indoors 90 percent of the time. When you stay in a building too long, you may start showing symptoms caused by prolonged exposure to hazardous substances and allergens. Here are some of the most common for poor indoor air quality:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin
  • Headaches or dizziness
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Rashes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nasal congestion

While these are common for other health problems, such as allergies, cold or flu, the most noticeable difference will be the absence of symptoms when you leave your home or office—wherever you suspect poor indoor air quality.

Symptoms can become more severe as the concentration of air contaminants or pollution increases, which may cause severe health problems like respiratory or heart disease and lung cancer.

Those with already compromised immune systems and the young and old are often more sensitive to the effects of poor indoor air quality. So, it’s best to take precautions if you suspect that something unhealthy is in your air.

How Your HVAC System Can Help with Indoor Air Quality

Your heating and cooling systems play a key role in your indoor air quality by circulating fresh air and limiting humidity in your home or business. But you can help it along by:

  • Getting your air ducts cleaned regularly by professionals
  • Cleaning or changing your filters every 30-60 days
  • Using doormats and vacuuming frequently
  • Adding houseplants
  • Installing a dehumidifier to combat humidity in your home
  • Hiring experts to clean up after flooding or water damage

Contact a local HVAC professional in your area to discuss how to improve your indoor air quality. A little planning and forethought today can keep you healthy for a long and happy life.

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