Most people may not consider breathing the air in their home or office as dangerous. But studies performed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rank indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to public health. This fact is especially alarming when linked with the knowledge that Americans spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors.
Although we face a variety of unavoidable health risks in our day-to-day lives, those related to air quality can be prevented and eliminated. At Mission AC and Plumbing, we want you to be protected against contaminants in your Houston home, beyond standard AC filtration. Keep reading to learn more about the connections between air quality and health.
The Basics of Indoor Air Quality
The quality of air around and within buildings, and how it relates to the comfort and health of occupants, is referred to as indoor air quality (IAQ). Studies have shown that indoor pollution levels can be two-to-five times (and in certain cases, 100 times) higher than outdoor levels.
Controlling and understanding indoor pollutants is crucial to reducing and preventing health risks associated with poor IAQ.
Benefits of Good IAQ
People spend a LOT of time indoors, and IAQ is strongly connected to daily well-being and health. Higher air quality leads to a higher quality of life. It is believed to lower the risk of developing some diseases, respiratory illnesses (including asthma) and other chronic conditions.
Ensuring your home’s air is free of health-threatening pollutants can help you breathe more easily, sleep better, erase odors, remove allergens and may even lower utility bills.
Regular ventilation, air quality monitors and installing a UV light in your AC are great ways to control your home’s IAQ.
Effects of Poor IAQ
Both indoor and outdoor air quality impacts your health directly and indirectly. According to the EPA, poor air quality affects those with asthma, lung or heart conditions, the elderly and young children the most. Poor IAQ can also result in extreme medical costs. If left unimproved, poor air quality can even lead to death in more extreme cases.. You may experience the physical effects of indoor pollutants shortly after exposure or years later. Removing those pollutants can improve public health and benefit the environment.
Immediate Health Effects
The following are some health effects that may show up quickly, after single or repeated exposure to indoor air pollutants:
- Irritation of the eyes, nose or throat
- Asthma symptoms or aggravation
- Symptoms similar to colds or other viral diseases
- Moderate or severe allergic reactions (from mold or mildew)
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
Age, pre-existing medical conditions and individual sensitivity levels affect the likelihood of developing an immediate reaction to indoor air pollutants. Some people may even become sensitized to specific chemical or biological pollutants after high-level or repeated exposures.
These immediate effects are often treatable and short-term, once you determine that exposure to indoor air pollution is the cause (instead of a cold or allergies). If symptoms show up while you are inside a specific building or room and fade once you leave it, try to identify the pollutant source in the area that may be causing your reaction. Inadequate ventilation with outdoor air or HVAC conditions may make symptoms worse.
If you can identify the pollution source, avoiding exposure is the best treatment to relieve symptoms.
Long-Term Health Effects
Other health effects that may not show up until years after exposure are:
- Respiratory illnesses
- Heart disease
- Skin illnesses
- Complications for heart and lung conditions
Although the exact concentrations and periods of exposure that can cause certain health problems are unclear, it is very clear that poor air quality has many harmful effects. Everyone reacts differently to pollutant exposure, so more work needs to be done to understand how the average concentrations of pollutants found in homes affect health.
These delayed health effects can become severely debilitating or, in some cases, fatal. Even if you aren’t experiencing any noticeable symptoms right now, being aware of and making efforts to improve your home’s IAQ is crucial to you, and your family’s, health.
Common Indoor Air Pollutants
IAQ problems are caused by pollution sources that release gas and particles into the air. The most common indoor pollutants are found in homes, office spaces and other public areas, and may be man-made or organic. Pollutant reactions can worsen when paired with high humidity levels, high temperatures and poor ventilation, which increase pollutant levels and concentrations.
The most common sources of indoor air pollution are:
- Second-hand smoke and tobacco products
- Gas-powered appliances
- Poorly maintained HVAC systems and humidification devices
- Household cleaning, maintenance and personal care products
- Tools used for hobbies
- Mold and mildew, caused by excess moisture
- Building material or furnishings (asbestos, pressed-wood products and new carpet, flooring or upholstery)
- Lead particles
- Nitrogen dioxide
- Outdoor sources nearby that may enter the home (pesticides, radon and environmental pollution)
A particular source’s effect on your health depends on how much pollutant it emits and how hazardous its emissions are. The source’s age and frequency of maintenance also contribute to its impact, as units (like a gas stove) degrade and are adjusted by professional technicians.
Sources that don’t always release pollutants (from activities or building materials) should be vented when possible to lessen their impact. Outdoor air can dilute emissions and carry pollutants away from the area, otherwise, they may remain in the air for long periods of time after activities.
Let Us Help You Breathe Easy
Our Mission AC and Plumbing team understands the importance of your home’s IAQ. In addition to heroic AC and plumbing services, we also proudly offer a solution to poor IAQ for homes in the Houston, TX area! Contact us today to learn more about our ultraviolet light installation or other air purification solutions.