FAQs about Indoor Air Pollution

Most residents of Alpharetta, GA, spend most of their time indoors, and a lot of that time is spent at home. Unfortunately, your home’s air quality could be two to five times more polluted than the outdoor air. Many homes have air quality so polluted that it’s like standing next to a busy highway or factory. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are methods of lowering indoor air pollution so that you and your family can breathe easier. This article will help you learn about the 10 frequently asked questions about indoor air pollution.

1. What Are Biological Indoor Air Pollutants?

Biological indoor air pollutants include dust, mold, pet dander, cat spit, cockroaches, mites and pollen. Bacteria and viruses are also biological indoor air pollutants. These pollutants can trigger allergic reactions. They may also trigger an asthma attack. Bacteria and viruses may cause respiratory infections if you breathe them into your lungs. Molds may release toxins, which cause nasal and throat irritation, severe headaches and fatigue.

2. What Is Carbon Monoxide and Why Is It Important?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is produced when petroleum products are burned. It’s a combustion byproduct. Burning gasoline, propane, charcoal, wood, kerosene or diesel fuel releases carbon monoxide. In homes, carbon monoxide gas can leak from faulty appliances or a malfunctioning furnace. A blocked chimney or flue may cause high carbon monoxide levels in a home. Idling an engine in an attached garage or near an open door or window allows the exhaust fumes to enter. The early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble common illnesses, such as stomach bugs or the flu. However, if levels continue to rise, loss of consciousness and death may quickly follow. Carbon monoxide has no smell, color, or taste, so the only way to know it’s in your home is with a monitor.

3. Where Should I Put a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

You should put a carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home by placing it on a ceiling. There should be a detector outside each bedroom. You should also put a carbon monoxide detector about 15 to 20 feet away from gas-powered appliances, including the furnace, clothes dryer, water heater and oven. Test the monitor monthly and replace its batteries every six months.

4. Could My Home Be Affected by Formaldehyde?

Yes, your home could be affected by formaldehyde. A few generations ago, formaldehyde was often used to preserve dissection specimens for science classes. It was also used for embalming. Today, formaldehyde is found in dry cleaned clothing. It’s also found in glues, adhesives, paints, lacquers, resin and pressed wood. Medium-density fiberboard has the highest concentration of formaldehyde typically found in a home. If you’ve purchased an inexpensive desk, shelf or cabinet, its drawers or doors may be made of this material. It has a pungent smell and can trigger asthma attacks. It causes itchy eyes, nose and throat irritation, coughing, fatigue and rashes. Formaldehyde may also cause cancer.

5. Should I Let New Items Produce Off-Gas Before I Bring Them Into My Home?

Yes, when possible, allow items that are new to produce off-gas outdoors or in a well-ventilated area before bringing them into your home. For example, if you buy a new chair that’s been treated with a stain-protection sealant, this sealant could release pollution into your home. Allow the new chair to produce its off-gas in your garage for a few days before bringing it inside. When possible, choose items that have OKO-Tex or similar certification. These certifications indicate that the item won’t release air pollutants into your home.

6. What Are Volatile Organic Compounds?

Volatile organic compounds are chemicals with high vapor pressure and low solubility in water. Most of them are made by people. They’re common in medications, refrigerants and paints. They’re also found in solvents, petroleum products and fuels. One way you could be exposed to volatile organic compounds is to bring home clothing that was dry-cleaned. Another way is if you paint model cars or figures, and the paint includes these compounds. Pesticides, lacquers, glues, permanent markers, cleaning supplies and printer toners or cartridges contain volatile organic compounds. In some cases, volatile organic compounds are 10 times more concentrated in homes than outdoors.

7. Does Indoor Air Pollution Make Asthma or Allergies Worse?

Yes, indoor air pollution can worsen asthma and allergy symptoms. People with asthma and allergies have inflammation in their breathing passages and lungs. If particles get into these areas, the body responds by causing more inflammation. The swelling and inflammation constrict the ability of the lungs to expand when taking a breath. A person with asthma who lives in a home with heavy indoor air pollution may experience more and worse asthma attacks. Although not all indoor air pollutants are allergens, they can trigger more coughing, sneezing and mucus production. They irritate the mucus membranes, which can make allergy attacks worse.

8. Can Remodeling My Home Create Indoor Air Pollution?

Yes, remodeling your home can create a large amount of indoor air pollution. Cutting drywall, wood trim or floorboards creates dust and tiny particles that float through your home’s air. Removing or adding insulation can release fiberglass fibers, which are light and float through the air. Painting, sealing, waxing and refinishing release volatile organic compounds. If you’re remodeling, use thick plastic sheeting to barricade off the area where the work is being done. Use exhaust fans that ventilate the outdoors. Avoid running your heating or air conditioning system, as this will draw in the dirty air from the work area and circulate it through your entire house. After the work is over, replace the filter in your heating and cooling system.

9. What Items Cause the Most Indoor Air Pollution in Houses?

Several categories of items are responsible for causing air pollution in homes. Cleaning agents, including general household cleaners, pesticides and fungicides release volatile organic compounds. New carpeting and upholstery release them, too. If you buy a new item made of plastic, you may notice that it has a strong odor. This odor is from off-gassing the volatile organic compounds. Fireplaces, wood stoves and gas-powered appliances may pollute your home’s air if the ventilation systems aren’t working correctly.

10. Do Everyday Activities Cause Indoor Air Pollution?

Yes, everyday activities can cause indoor air pollution. Cooking with oil creates droplets that affect air quality. If food burns, the smoke and ash particles worsen your home’s air. Brushing your pet releases dander into the air. If your hobbies involve paints, adhesives or woodworking, these activities can contribute to the number of particles that enter your home’s air. Cleaning with harsh chemicals, such as ammonia or bleach, also negatively impacts indoor air quality. Burning candles, wood or paper creates indoor air pollution, too.

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