POOR INDOOR AIR QUALITY CAN CAUSE OR CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEVELOPMENT of infections, lung cancer and chronic lung diseases such as asthma. In addition, it can cause headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue. People who already have lung disease are at greater risk. The American Lung Association recommends that the first line of defense against indoor air pollution is finding ways to keep the pollutants from being added to the air in the first place.
According to the American Lung Association (www.lung.orgome) the most common pollutants include:
These include molds, bacteria, viruses, pollen, animal dander and particles from dust mites and cockroaches. These may cause infections, provoke allergic symptoms or trigger asthma attacks. Means of control include washing bedding to kill dust mites, keeping animals out of areas affected persons frequent, and practicing careful cleaning.
Secondhand Tobacco Smoke
A major indoor air pollutant, it contains some 200 known poisons, such as formaldehyde and carbon monoxide, and at least 60 chemicals known to cause cancer. It causes an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths and up to 50,000 heart disease deaths among U.S. non-smokers each year.
These come from sources such as fuel burning stoves, furnaces, fireplaces, heaters and water heaters, equipment that uses gas, oil, coal, wood or other fuel. The most dangerous pollutants are both colorless and odorless gases: carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). CO interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the body. It can produce fatigue, headache, confusion, nausea and dizziness. Make sure combustion appliances are installed and maintained by reliable professionals, and properly used. A UL-listed CO monitor should also be installed.
This common chemical is found primarily in adhesive or bonding agents, and is used in carpets, upholstery, particle board and plywood paneling. The release of formaldehyde into the air may cause health problems, such as coughing; eye, nose and throat irritation; skin rashes, headaches and dizziness. The best control is to avoid using products that emit formaldehyde. As a second line of defense, allow new, potential sources of formaldehyde to air out thoroughly before bringing them indoors.
In addition, hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals are emitted by household cleaning agents, personal care products, pesticides, paints, hobby products and solvents. Such chemicals can cause dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions, eye/skin/respiratory tract irritation and cancer. Minimize your use of such sources of dangerous chemicals.
Want to learn more about indoor air quality and how to find products that ensure good indoor air? UL has collected resources that offer tips and solutions here.
Fresh Air Formula
Indoor air tends to concentrate pollutants quickly. As a result, building codes typically have certain requirements for the amount of fresh air that must be exchanged with stale indoor air over a given period. Typically this is expressed as cubic feet per minute, or CFM.
An organization called ASHRAE provides guidelines for how much ventilation is needed, although the best means for achieving that ventilation are often debated. When in doubt, more ventilation is better than less, but you have to balance the resulting energy loss with improved indoor air quality.