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What is Indoor Air Quality and How Does it Affect Our Health?

What is Indoor Air Quality?

Also known by the acronym IAQ, indoor air quality refers to the condition of the air inside and also around a building. Proper indoor air quality has been known to improve health, whereas bad IAQ has been linked to several health issues. Here are some ways IAQ can negatively impact health, what health issues it can cause, who is at the highest risk, and how to improve indoor air quality.

How does IAQ affect health?

Since the Industrial Revolution, many places have had an increase in pollutants and irritants in the air. Fortunately, this has decreased in recent years, improving air quality outdoors. It is widely known that outdoor pollutants can cause respiratory problems, but so can the air indoors.

According to the EPA, concentrations of pollutants can be up to five times higher indoors than outdoors. Most Americans spend about 90% of their day indoors, and those most susceptible to indoor air pollutants spend even more time inside. The elderly, small children, and people with asthma and other preexisting conditions are at a greater risk for developing health issues related to indoor pollutants.

Health issues that can be traced back to indoor air pollutants include:

  • Respiratory diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation

What are some common indoor pollutants?

Carbon monoxide is probably one of the most well-known indoor air pollutants. While cars give off carbon monoxide, so do other things in your home. If you have a fireplace, the wood you burn can release carbon monoxide into the air.

Mold is another indoor air pollutant, gathering in places that have a higher level of moisture, like bathrooms. Older homes may have asbestos and paint containing lead, though nowadays most places have moved away from using these. Other pollutants include bacteria, dust mites, and outdoor contaminants that can travel indoors, such as pollen.

How do you improve IAQ?

Change Your Air Filters

One of the main things you can do to improve the quality of your indoor air is to change your air filters. Ventilation systems not only provide you with air in the summer and heat in the winter, but they also filter the air you breathe. Fortunately, changing the filter in your ventilation system can help cut down on the number of pollutants entering your home. Just be sure to call a technician if your ventilation system stops working completely. Unless you become a licensed HVAC contractor, you should leave that kind of work to the professionals.

Use Cooking Vents

This is probably a no-brainer if you have a gas stove, but even an electric stove can release unwanted particles into the air. Turning on the vent above your stove can help eliminate some of those pollutants.

Deep Clean Carpets and Rugs

It is widely known that carpets can hold a lot of respiratory irritants, which is why many people switch to hardwood floors. All rugs should be cleaned weekly and carpets should be deep cleaned weekly to ensure that the majority, if not all, unwanted particles are eliminated.

Plants and Essential Oils

Trees are known to help purify the air outside, so it’s no wonder that plants have that same effect indoors. Having real plants around your home not only enhances your decor, but your air quality as well. Did you know that certain essential oils can help purify the air we breathe? This makes sense, as most essential oils are actually derived from plants!

Indoor air quality is something that we tend to overlook, but it has a great impact on our health and well-being. Due to the fact that we spend most of our time indoors, we’re putting ourselves at risk of major health issues if our IAQ is poor. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to improve our air. We can also spend a little more time outdoors since fresh air and sunshine are also beneficial to our health.

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