Indoor Air Guidelines
Protect against harmful contaminates in the air you breathe
By Kathryn Keep
Air is all around us and essential to life, but the air inside your home or office may be harmful to your health. Anyone can be affected by poor indoor air quality, and some people are hypersensitive to certain indoor air pollutants, with allergies and asthma possibly caused or made worse by those pollutants. Achieving better indoor air quality requires some knowledge of what causes indoor air pollution.
Radon may not have immediate effects, but it may contribute to between 7,000 and 30,000 lung cancer deaths every year. It can come from earth and rock beneath the home or building, or from building materials. Test kits are widely available and should be used at least every two years or after a major remodel. The average radon level for a home is about 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Any level above 4 pCi/L means that repair is imperative, but lower levels may still be cause for concern.
Biological contaminants include bacteria, mold and mildew. They can come from wet or damp furniture, ceilings, walls or floors, or improperly maintained air conditioners, humidifiers and dehumidifiers. Keeping all areas clean and dry, especially where water damage has occurred, is essential for preventing illness and disease.
Carbon monoxide can cause symptoms of fatigue and dizziness. Very high levels can lead to death. Sources of carbon monoxide include kerosene and gas heaters, gas furnaces, wood stoves and tobacco smoke. Ensure that all furnaces and stoves are properly installed and routinely inspected. Avoid smoking indoors except in designated areas with separate ventilation.
Formaldehyde is a chemical commonly used in pressed wood (used in everything from wall paneling to furniture), foam insulation and carpet. It can cause eye and throat irritation, coughing and wheezing, skin rash and allergic reactions. Use formaldehyde-free building materials and furniture whenever possible to avoid this chemical.
Particulates are small particles that can come from a variety of sources including fireplaces, stoves, heaters and tobacco smoke. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, particulates are divided into respirable and non-respirable. Respirable particles can go into the lungs and cause serious damage. Larger, non-respirable particles get stuck in the upper respiratory system and can cause irritation. Properly maintain and vent fireplaces, stoves and heaters. Changing filters regularly can also protect against particulates.
About the Author
Kathryn Keep is a regular contributor to DexKnows. She is an eco-consultant, with expertise in environmental issues, home decorating, green building, and general sustainable living.
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