There is no shortage of discussion about outdoor air pollution. Global warming, smog, and other negative effects are tirelessly discussed as a world-wide problem. While outdoor air quality is surely of great importance across the board of sustainable living, many folks forget the importance of Indoor Air Quality which refers to the quality of air inside our homes or inside buildings in general.
IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) has been a key point in the continuously developing world of sustainable design.
There are several steps that can be taken to promote good IAQ in your residence, and abundance in products to repel or remove airborne toxins that can deplete the quality of life for any inhabitant.
Dangers of Indoor Air Pollution
To get an idea of the importance of having good quality air inside your home, have a look at the infographic below which illustrates the dangers of indoor air pollution with tips and solutions:
Categories of Air Toxins inside our homes
First, we must address what exactly we are up against here. There are three main categories for toxins that can deplete your home’s IAQ. These categories are listed below:
This includes any organic toxins. Examples are dust mites, mold, bacteria, and insects.
This includes natural earth elements and other naturally reoccurring toxic materials such as asbestos, radon, and sheetrock dust.
-Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC’s)
Can be emitted from household fabrics, building materials, and other products in your home. Examples of VOC’s include formaldehyde, benzene, and styrene.
Whether a building is residential or commercial, it is susceptible to having any of these toxins/irritants if products are not carefully chosen during the building and design process.
Products to check for toxic emissions
Certain products you need to check for toxic emissions are listed below. This information has been drawn from the American Society of Interior Designers’ Indoor Air Quality Two-Part Program.
- Construction Products: Sealers, insulation, paint, caulks, and adhesives.
- Fixtures and Furnishings: Carpeting, carpeting pads and adhesives, furniture, finishes, and chipboard.
- Waxes, Polishes, Solvents, and Insect Repellents.
- Machines and Electronics: Can emit Electromagnetic Fields.
- Photographic processes, perfumes and sprays.
- Operational equipment, inadequate air filtering, poorly designed HVAC systems, or standing water.
Methods for Improving Indoor Air Quality
While prevention may be the easiest solution for new build projects and gutted renovations, there are also methods that are simple to add in post-construction. Here are a few methods for improving your home’s IAQ.
The first thing you will want to do is test your home’s IAQ. There are several ways to do this. However, a good start would be simply self-evaluating. Bad IAQ can cause a number of symptoms including fatigue and skin irritation. Assess your own lifestyle and activities as well as investigating other possible issues. Once you’ve evaluated these areas, you will be ready to take action to improve your home’s IAQ. Below are some key areas of importance to consider while moving forward in your quest for clean air.
This is one of the most important factors concerning IAQ. Here are some signs that your residence does not meet the standard for good ventilation.
- Condensation on indoor side of windows and walls.
- Odor or stuffiness in air
- Dirty HVAC systems.
- Blocked vents
One of the simplest methods of improving your home’s IAQ is by introducing plant life to the environment. Plants act as filters for surrounding air. Specific plants even specialize in filtering certain chemicals. For example, spider plants absorb formaldehyde. Additionally, peace lilies absorb benzene. The process of photosynthesis allows plants to filter toxins from the air, as well as provide additional oxygen.
Keeping a healthy level of humidity is a vital part of maintaining good IAQ in your home. Dust Mites and mold can become a problem if moisture is not between 30-50%. Keeping your humidity under control can also help tame other allergens. Also, using an air conditioner can help reduce pollen count in the air.
Natural earth elements can have serious effects on the wellbeing if inhabitants exposed to the chemicals. Radon is a radioactive gas that is not detectible by scent or by sight. Radon is emitted from a number of substances including uranium decay in soil, and even granite countertops.
-Avoid Scented Products
Scented cleaners, air fresheners, and other household products can be detrimental to any home’s IAQ. Some standard fragrances carry over 20 different Volatile Organic Chemicals. Alternatives include using fresh citrus and baking soda to clean, avoiding aerosol sprays, and let in fresh air once in a while to avoid VOC build-up.
-Keep Floors Clean
This is especially important when concerning carpeted flooring. Carpet can be a trap for dust mites, dirt, and many other unwanted toxins that can be tracked by foot throughout your home. Clean carpets regularly and use recommended HEPA-filters for your vacuum to ensure toxins are not being leaked back into the environment. Mopping for smooth-surface floors like laminate, linoleum, and tiling is recommended whenever possible. Additionally, floor mats at all entrances and exits to a home are recommended to prevent outdoor toxins from being tracked indoors.
There’s products out there that claim to improve IAQ. One of these is the “Pure Genius Air Purifying Smart Floor” by Lauzon. This brand claims that their flooring line offers a solution for IAQ that will make your air up to 85% cleaner. The flooring is activated by light, and works similarly to a tree or living plant, filtering the air by using a titanium finish with an air-purifying agent made of titanium dioxide. Other products to improve indoor air quality include specialized filter systems as well as special vacuums meant to filter out volatile chemicals.
More Indoor Air Quality Information
The two infographics below offer some additional excellent information about this important health topic that every home owner must take seriously.