The 4 Most Common Indoor Air Quality Problems And Their Solutions

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Unless you've been living on a desert island somewhere you've already seen online or through some type of conventional print media that weatherization is key to cutting household energy costs. So now everywhere around the globe people are sealing their homes up tight as a drum to keep air from escaping, along with wasted energy.

At the same time though, one of the unwelcome results of sealing up a home, or any building for that matter, is that air quality can suffer.

Pollutants and contaminants that in the past would have eventually found their way out are now stuck inside, right along with the occupants. These poor people trapped inside are finding themselves suffering the negative effects of air quality issues.

So then just what are these contaminants and how are they being generated? Is the solution to be found in prevention? Or is the answer to be found in new technologies they can scrub pollutants from the air? It turns out that the answers are many and they come from a wide range of sources depending on any number of variables. The solutions are also equally diverse. Let's take a moment to look at each problem and then I'll reveal the solutions to the problems, 1 by 1.

Problem #1: Second Hand Tobacco Smoke

Secondhand tobacco smoke is nothing to discount. This is because if you're stuck in a home or work place where people are smoking, and you are all sharing the air, you also may as well be smoking up to half a pack of cigarettes a day. That's just the facts as they stand. So this also means that you'll be ingesting over 40 different noxious compounds contained in tobacco smoke that have been proven to cause cancer.

Clinical studies have also shown that consistent exposure to high concentrations of secondhand tobacco smoke can cut your life short by as much as 10 years. It can also lead to any one or combination of a number of smoking-related illnesses, including various cancers, heart disease, pneumonia, bronchitis and chronic ear and sinus infections, just to name a few of them.

The Solutions

By far the easiest and cheapest solution is to simply have people who wish to smoke just step outside when they feel that they need a smoke break. Or in a workplace where that isn't an option then consider establishing a smoking room where the air can be directly vented out Then there is another solutions that come in the form of hepa-filter technology that was developed by NASA to scrub the air in the work areas where delicate equipment was being assembled for space craft.

Problem #2: Combustion Sources

Another common source of indoor air pollution is gases and aerosols generated by combustion in fireplaces, wood stoves, gas heaters, and even gas water heaters that aren't vented properly. One of these gases, (carbon dioxide) can kill and it does kill many people around the globe each year.

Gases created by combustion sources in homes and business have also been linked to chronic fatigue, lung disease, certain cancers, emphysema and increased risk of respiratory disorders. With gases the actual atomic particles are so small that they tend to be the most difficult to remove once they're created. So in this case, more than any others, prevention is the primary key to bringing about a solution.

The Solution

A hepa-filter air scrubbing system will work to remove some of the aerosols generated by combustion sources but it will have no effect on the gases. To remove gases from the air inside the building after they've been generated requires a carbon filter and even then they can't do a complete job.

So in this case prevention is key, and particularly holds true with regards to carbon monoxide generation. Prevention means that you act before there is a problem, so most experts recommend that any gas or wood fired appliances be inspected once a year. Then simple preventative measures like keeping the doors closed on gas and wood-fired systems just make good common sense.

Problem #3: Household Chemicals

Then finally most people are completely unaware of the vast amount of chemicals that go into the construction of their home. Ask them about chemicals in their living space and they will direct you to the cupboard underneath the kitchen sink or perhaps a closet out in the garage where some cleaning liquids, pool chemicals and perhaps pesticides are stored.

Now all of these are for sure sources for household chemicals in the air but so too are all the adhesives and other industrial chemicals that have gone into the building of a home. Particle board for example contains chemical binders and then there's the powerful anti-fungal chemicals that the base plate on a frame of a home are treated with. Then there is all the various glues and adhesives that are used on vinyl flooring and areas like wallpaper.

The Solution

Here again, a big part of the solution is prevention. That is to remove as many chemical products from your home as you can and store outside in your garage or an out building. Even a small bottle, if it contains a volatile solvent can be a major contributor to chemical pollution inside a home if it's not sealed and stored properly.

Then if you or a family member suffers from allergies there's now wide assortment of hypoallergenic household products like paint, cleaners, etc. Another thing to be aware of is that when you have your carpet cleaned and if the detergent that they use isn't properly rinsed out, that also can also end up being a contributor to chemical vapors inside your home or business. Then finally, a carbon filter air scrubbing system can also play a part in clearing the air of noxious chemicals.

Problem #4: Biological Air Pollution

Biological air pollution is another name for organic air pollution. This would be microscopic particulate matter that comes from living things, and there are many sources that can exist in a home. If you own pets for example, they will be shedding dander that will in turn become suspended in the air and cause breathing problems, particularly for people who have allergies and asthma.

Then there's mold spore issues that can be aggravated if a home has moisture problems along with bacteria and viruses. Dust mites are another common problem in sealed up homes that are having air quality issues. One of the problems with biological sourced air pollution though, is that some of it, like virus and mold spore are incredibly small and that makes them difficult to remove.

The Solutions

One common solution to rid your home of this type of air pollution is attacking the sources. If you have a leaking roof that is in need of repairs for example, getting those repairs done would be a solution to mold issues. Then if you have a central air-conditioning system in your home or business the ductwork accumulated is another common breeding ground for biological air pollution.

In this case a commercial air conditioning repair and cleaning company is only remedy. Then again, just as above, a hepa filter air scrubbing system is another effective remedy. Be aware though, that mold can live behind walls. So a surface can appear clean when the backside of the sheetrock can still be covered.

Written by Joseph Espinoza. I've been an air quality control specialist for almost 4 years and I currently work for a company called Aireserv.