Every day, we face a variety of risks that could impact our health as we go about our daily routines. Driving in cars, commuting in public transportation, engaging in your favourite recreational activities can expose us to varying risks of pollutants. While many people think that staying inside the comforts of our homes protect us from harmful pollution and hazardous substances, think again!
A growing body of scientific evidence shows that the air we breathe inside our homes is seriously more polluted and has greater health risks than the air outside. People who spend more time indoors are more vulnerable to the effects of indoor air pollution. Children, seniors, and those suffering from cardio-respiratory diseases should be wary about the impact of poor indoor quality on their health.
The Hazards of Poor Indoor Quality
Breathing in indoor air can be more dangerous to your health, especially during winter when most houses, offices, and schools keep their doors and windows to conserve heat and energy. You may experience perpetual cold and other nagging symptoms in the cold months and not realize that the real cause of the problem is poor indoor air quality.
Exposure to poor indoor air can contribute to a wide variety of health problems, including:
- Respiratory health problems
- Persistent, chronic cough
- Frequent colds
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation
- Sore throats
- Memory problems
Prolonged exposure to polluted indoor air could also increase your risk of cancer. While children, the elderly, and people with allergies, asthma, as well as heart and lung diseases, are more susceptible, healthy people breathing in unhealthy air may also experience symptoms.
Unfortunately, no matter how clean the home or office is, a variety of harmful pollutants may be present in the air. Unknown to many people, the level of hazardous substances in indoor air exceeds the pollutants found in outdoor sources. In some cases, the level is higher than permissible industrial exposures.
So, what makes indoor air more harmful?
While inadequate ventilation, humidity, and high temperature contribute to poor indoor air quality, the presence of chemical pollutants that hang in the air is what makes it more toxic.
- Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a significant combustion pollutant and the leading cause of poisoning deaths. Fireplaces, dryers, water heaters, space heaters, and other fuel-burning combustion appliances produce CO, contributing to indoor air pollution, especially when placing these appliances in unvented or areas with poor ventilation. This odourless, colourless gas is a result of the incomplete carbon combustion. Among the most common CO poisoning symptoms include:
- Chest pain
People with chronic heart conditions could experience fatigue and chest pain when breathing in low levels of CO. Exposure to higher levels can cause flu-like symptoms in healthy people while even higher CO saturation can lead to loss of consciousness and death.
To prevent CO poisoning in homes:
- Install a CO monitor in poorly vented areas to monitor the presence of CO in the air before it reaches potentially life-threatening levels.
- Use only vented appliances whenever possible. Adjust all gas appliances properly to reduce CO combustion.
- Check if the gas and/or heating appliances meet the current safety standards. Only buy certified and tested combustion appliances.
- Gas heaters should possess safety devices that enable you to shut off whenever the gas heater becomes improperly vented before it can produce large amounts of CO.
- Choose appliances with electronic ignitions instead of pilot lights as they are more energy-efficient and help prevent continuous low-level pollutants from pilot lights.
- Volatile Organic Compounds
Many household products, such as air fresheners and scents, paints, cleaning and disinfecting agents, emit volatile organic compounds, which can easily vaporize and turn into toxic gases at normal room temperatures. The indoor air pollution caused by levels of dozen common VOCs can be 2 or 5 times higher compared to highly industrialized areas.
VOC emission can pollute the air with dangerous substances, including toluene, xylenes, styrene, and trichloroethylene. Exposure to these chemicals can cause varying health problems. Childhood leukemia has been linked to exposure of high levels of trichloroethylenes; pregnant women exposed to toluene are at risk of having babies with neurologic and developmental problems, and retarded growth. Styrene, a potential endocrine disruptor, can mimic or block human and animal hormones.
To protect your home from high levels of VOCs, follow these safety steps:
- Refer to the directions before using all household products.
- Use these products in well-ventilated areas.
- Ensure proper disposal of partially full containers of old or unneeded chemicals.
- Limit the use of products containing methylene chloride, benzene, and perchloroethylene to reduce emission and exposure.
Considered as the most alarming indoor pollutant, formaldehyde is a ubiquitous chemical. It can be emitted by formaldehyde insulation, carpets, and rugs made from synthetic fibres, permanent press clothing and linens, particleboard used in wooden fixtures (walls, partitions, cupboards, and furniture), and many cosmetic and drug products.
The high concentration of formaldehyde in the air can cause the following health problems:
- Persistent upper respiratory infections
- Eye irritation
- Chronic headaches
- Periodic memory lapses
- Chest pain and heart disease in older people
To protect yourself from this hazardous chemical:
- Before using new permanent press items, make sure to wash them several times to get rid of the chemical.
- Do not use products made from particleboard. If it cannot be avoided, coat them with a sealant.
- Inspect the list of ingredients on drugs or cosmetic products before buying them.
- Never insulate your home using formaldehyde foam.
Understanding the causes and health risks associated with toxic chemicals in indoor air can help you understand the importance of prevention and what you can do to protect your health. Make sure to have the quality of your indoor air for levels of toxic chemicals by a professional on a regular basis.
Detoxing Indoor Air to Protect Your Health
Detox indoor air using a high-quality air filtration system to eliminate toxic chemicals and particles in indoor air and protect you and your family’s health.
HVAC LINK strives to provide residential and commercial building owners peace of mind when it comes to clean and healthy indoor air. We are your go-to solution for high-efficiency (HEPA) air filtration systems that ensure safety and health in your space.
Give us a call today at (416) 567-3498 to discuss how we can assess the problem and provide long-term solutions for your home and business air needs. Let us be your partners in making your home or office space a place for safe, clean air.