Three of the Most Common Household Air Pollutants
Although it may seem counterintuitive, a home’s indoor air often contains many more pollutants than the air outside. This is because indoor air is typically recycled - and air leakage minimized - to maintain a comfortable climate inside the home. The consequence of this is that pollutants tend to accumulate without adequate ventilation.
Some pollutants make their way in from outside, but others originate inside the home. The HVAC system’s air filters do what they can to capture as many pollutants as possible. Still, they aren’t always effective against some of the more dangerous pollutants - protecting against these requires additional measures. So read on to learn about a few of the more common indoor air pollutants found in homes, the dangers they pose, and what to do about them.
Most homeowners wouldn’t consider moisture a harmful pollutant, but too much of it in the air can be dangerous for multiple reasons. Most importantly, it can facilitate mold growth in the home. Breathing in mold spores in high quantities is never good, but some species that commonly grow in homes can be particularly dangerous, potentially causing respiratory infections or severe allergic reactions.
High moisture levels can also make it easier for other contaminant-producing infestations to thrive, such as bacteria and dust mites, and make breathing more difficult in general. Most experts recommend keeping the home’s relative humidity below 60%, typically accomplished by installing an appropriately sized dehumidifier.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Not all VOCs are toxic, but many of those found in everyday products are. Possible symptoms of VOC exposure include headaches, nausea, nose and throat discomfort, and dizziness. Exposure is most dangerous in high concentrations or over a prolonged time, potentially leading to organ damage, serious illness, and even cancer.
To be on the safe side, homeowners should never use chemical products without proper ventilation. They should periodically open a few windows to let fresh air into the home and avoid a buildup of VOCs.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Perhaps the most well-known indoor air pollutant of all, carbon monoxide is also the most dangerous. Carbon monoxide is a gas produced when a fuel source doesn’t fully burn: wood, charcoal, gasoline, oil, natural gas, etc. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, which makes it virtually undetectable to the naked senses.
Exposure to high concentrations of carbon monoxide can be fatal, even in a matter of minutes, so it’s vital to know the warning signs of exposure. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, fatigue, difficulty breathing, or “flu-like” symptoms.
If anyone in the home is experiencing these symptoms, they should evacuate at once, of people and pets alike. The door should be left open to allow the home to ventilate, and the homeowners should call their local emergency services from across the street or a neighbor’s home.
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