If you live in Anchorage or the Mat-Su Valley, you know about pollen, wildfire smoke and other outdoor pollutants. But did you know that the EPA has stated that indoor air pollution can be two to five times (occasionally more than 100 times) higher? Air quality is a big factor in our day-to-day lives…especially in winter. Check out this interactive home tour that details how different areas of our homes can have an effect on the air quality.
Indoor Air Quality Pollutants
You might be wondering, “What can possibly pollute the air indoors?” Well, precisely the same things that can pollute the air outdoors–in fact, more–except it is much easier for these pollutants to become concentrated in the closed-off, sealed environment of a home or business. Here is a list of the most common indoor air pollutants:
- Dust, silt, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, mold, and other allergens
- Secondhand smoke and other tobacco products
- Odors and chemicals from cleaning products
- Building materials old (think: asbestos) and new
- Exhaust from nearby vehicles
- Carbon monoxide from combustion appliances such as space heaters, wood stoves, and more
- Nitrogen dioxide, also from combustion appliances
- Pesticides from outdoor air pollution
- Radon from the surrounding environment
Many of these pollutants can be reduced simply by removing the source of the pollution (for example, posting a sign asking customers to shut off their engines near a building), making adjustments to your HVAC system such as changing the filters, cleaning out the ducts, or altering the heat and humidity settings (in the case of many allergens), or installing an indoor air quality system if you do not have one.
It also is very important to install carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and radon detectors in your home.
Symptoms of Poor Indoor Air Quality
The health effects of poor indoor air quality can appear immediately or years down the road. For this reason, it is a good idea to take precautionary measures toward improving indoor air quality. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and they fade or go away entirely when you leave a particular place, that place may have poor indoor air quality:
- Headaches and fatigue
- Irritation of the eyes, ears, nose, throat, and skin
- New, aggravated or worsened allergies or asthma
- Congestion, coughing, or sneezing
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness, weakness, and nausea
WARNING: Particularly dangerous pollutants include secondhand smoke, toxic gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, and radon. In the case of secondhand smoke, there is a higher risk of childhood ear infections and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Poor indoor air quality is more dangerous for children as they breathe more air in proportion to their body weight. With carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless chemical that is difficult to detect, you risk headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, and nausea that ultimately leads to death at toxic levels. Nitrogen dioxide is also an undetectable gas that can lead to an increased risk of respiratory infection. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. If any of these is detected, please exit the building.
The EPA states that good indoor air quality includes, “control of airborne pollutants; introduction and distribution of adequate outdoor air; and maintenance of acceptable temperature and relative humidity.”
Solutions to Poor Indoor Air Quality
If you think that any of these factors are out of balance in your Alaska home or business, would love to talk to you about whole-home solutions. Give us a call at (907) 365-2500 (Anchorage) or (907) 745-2559 (Mat-Su) or contact us here.