4 Common Causes of Indoor Air Quality Issues
A number of pollutants commonly found in buildings may have an impact on the health of occupants. The quantities of these indoor air pollutants may vary widely, and this variation affects the level of risk of each pollutant to the occupants’ health. While there are guidelines in place to govern what quantities are acceptable in homes and businesses, there is still much research to be done to determine at exactly what point these pollutants begin to threaten health. However, it is helpful for homeowners and workers to be aware of these pollutants and where they are found.
Radon gas exposure can be a problem for nearly any homeowner. Radon typically comes from uranium in the soil and rock upon which many homes are built. As the uranium breaks down, the radon gas is released into the air and enters the home through cracks, openings, drains, and vents. In rare cases, the materials used to build homes may also give off radon gas. If radon gas becomes trapped inside of homes, concentration levels may rise and threaten the health of inhabitants.
Formaldehyde is used in the production of many different types of home furnishings and products. Pressed wood products, certain textiles, and drapes may all contain formaldehyde. Formaldehyde may also be given off as a by-product when using fuel-burning appliances such as kerosene heaters within the home. The amount of formaldehyde emissions may vary according to factors such as heat, humidity, and age of the formaldehyde-containing product.
Pesticides are used to kill different types of household pests and may include insecticides, termiticides, rodenticides, and even disinfectants. These products may be introduced directly into the home or may be tracked in from outdoor sources. Most types of pesticides give off emissions which can be found in the air inside of homes. Pesticides in the air can threaten health, and levels rise as more pesticides are introduced or as poorly sealed homes allow pesticide-laden air into the home from outside. Pesticides that are ingested pose a severe and immediate threat. Pesticides should always be kept out of reach of children and pets.
Biological contaminants include pollutants such as mold, mildew, viruses, dust mites, pollen, and animal dander. Biological contaminants have many sources, including the people and animals that live in the house. Contaminated air purifiers, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers may also introduce biological contaminants. Standing water or surfaces that are continually exposed to moisture may breed many types of biological contaminants. High levels of humidity within homes may worsen existing problems with biological contaminants.
Handling Suspected Pollutant Issues
If there are suspected pollutant problems within a home or building, there are certain steps that should be taken. If the building is a workplace or shared residence, others that may be experiencing health issues should be consulted and interviewed to pinpoint similarities in issues. A physician or healthcare professional should be consulted regarding any health complications, with building or workplace officials being notified about the visit and the results.
The state or local health department can be contacted to perform investigations and interviews to determine the source of the problems. If pollutant issues are suspected in a private residence, a company that has experience with helping to solve indoor air quality problems in non-industrial buildings should be contacted.