Now more than ever before, people are spending more time indoors, making indoor air quality significantly impact human health. Indoor air is considered more polluted than fresh outdoor air. Indoor air quality has worsened in recent years. This is not just because of the increased amount of time people spend at home but also due to the more energy-efficient construction of buildings that provide for a far less natural flow of outdoor air into structures. There is also a greater use of synthetic building materials in construction.
There are many sources of pollutants in the home that can affect air quality. This can include ozone from aerosol sprays, pet dander, mold, asbestos, and combustion by-products like carbon monoxide and cigarette smoke. Weather conditions can also affect indoor air quality as it can influence whether people open windows and their use of temperature regulating devices like air conditioners.
When you have poor indoor air quality, there is an increased risk of experiencing certain health effects. Indoor air pollutants can cause respiratory and cardiac symptoms and conditions to arise. This can include allergies, headaches, and dizziness. Some pollutants, such as radon, are also known human carcinogens that can increase the risk of lung cancer. At high concentrations, pollutants like carbon monoxide can also be lethal.
Before you can address the problem of bad indoor air quality, you first need to be aware there is potentially such a problem. Here are some warning signs to look out for that may indicate a need to take action.
Persistent Cold Symptoms
Most people will suffer cold or flu-like symptoms multiple times in their life. But this tends to be a seasonal problem. There may be a problem when household members persistently suffer cold or flu-like symptoms lasting longer than a week or two. Some of the symptoms to look out for include:
- irritated eyes, nose, and/or throat
- runny nose
These symptoms may indicate that your indoor air is contaminated with triggering pollutants like dust, bacteria, viruses, and mites. These pollutants will often thrive where there is limited air circulation and humidity. A good way to determine if your air quality is causing the problem is to note the severity of your symptoms. Do they worsen at home and improve when you go out to work, school, or shopping? If so, then you may have bad air quality in the home.
If you have allergies and find that they are increasingly triggered, you need to track your movements. Like persistent cold symptoms, check if your allergies are being triggered more frequently while you are at home versus when you go out. This may indicate that there is something in the house causing the problem.
Some reactions to pollutants can be something very familiar, like having a cold or an allergic reaction. However, sometimes you may also start experiencing new reactions that are extreme. Pollutants that are more toxic and dangerous, like asbestos and mold, can cause severe health effects that may require urgent medical intervention.
Some possible symptoms include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue, body ache, shortness of breath, rashes, and fevers. When you begin to have such extreme reactions, it is important to consult with a doctor to try and identify the cause and if it could relate to your indoor air quality.
Poor air quality can cause your sleep patterns to suffer. Studies have shown that people are increasingly likely to experience low sleep efficiency due to poor air quality. This means they spend less time sleeping while in bed and feel more fatigued as you will not be getting an optimal amount of good quality sleep at night.
Evidence of dust build-up around the home can also indicate poor air quality. You may find more dust on surfaces that you regularly clean. Check on your air filters to see if they have become dirtier faster than usual. This may mean you will need to upgrade your filters as standard options are not up to the job.
When you have unpleasant odors building up in certain areas of the home, this is a sign that there is poor air circulation. This could be caused by pollen, mold, and pet dander. Sometimes the smells may not be unpleasant. Food smells from cooking that linger may also indicate poor circulation. It could also indicate that your filtration system is failing, and your system may need to be serviced. Having filters replaced and duct cleaning can help with this issue.
How to Fix Poor Air Quality
Once you notice these or other poor indoor air quality indicators, you need to investigate the source. It could be new neighboring construction that is causing your home to have more dust, a mold infestation that requires treatment, or your HVAC system has broken down. In some situations, you may need to call in a professional HVAC specialist to help determine what could be the source of the problem.
Having your HVAC system checked and serviced regularly will go a long way in preserving or improving your indoor air quality. Having a properly functioning HVAC system can address many air quality problems. This equipment helps to circulate and clean the air in the home, ensuring a healthier and more comfortable environment.
If these factors are not the cause of your poor air quality, an HVAC specialist can help investigate and determine what other cause could be responsible and advise you on what action to take.