What is Indoor Air Quality?
Like many things in environmental science, "Indoor Air Quality" sounds more like an informal way of describing the air in your home. But it is much more than that.
Indoor Air Quality measures the health risks of a space's air pollution. There is an Indoor Air Quality Index which lists many different factors that affect indoor air quality. The EPA rates the indoor air quality index from 0 to 500.
0 to 50 - Healthy
Most homes will end up scoring in this range. A few influences can harm a person's health, but they are unlikely to manifest themselves. A 0 to 50 rating would have air conditioning and no chemicals in the air.
51 to 100 - Unhealthy
If you have asthma, allergies, or other health issues, you may wake up in this room feeling uncomfortable. But by every other metric, it is acceptable to be in an environment such as this.
101 to 150 - Poor
The 101-150 is where you start to notice issues even if you are healthy. The air is not hard to breathe, but it can become that way if it is too humid or hot. Exercising in a room like this will be noticeably more difficult than exercising elsewhere.
People with respiratory health issues should avoid these rooms.
151 to 200 - Severe
Even healthy people will feel like they have respiratory issues in rooms like this. Dust, mold, chemicals, and other pollutants are so dense that they can become infectious. Sheds and condemned houses are usually this bad, but it is rare for a person's living space to get like this. Even the most irresponsible college student will be cleaner than this.
Don't sleep in a room like this. You will usually notice when a room is this bad.
201 to 300 - Dangerous
The air in a room rated 201-300 is actively dangerous. Indoor air in these living areas can quickly damage the human body. Anyone with a history of respiratory illness or other risk factors such as pregnancy or advanced diseases should avoid areas like this. No one can clean such a room in a day.
Rooms like this are sometimes the result of malfunctions, like leaky pipes, spilled chemicals, or some other serious problem that is probably obvious to one or more of the senses.
301 and Up - Hazardous
The 301 and above rating is the most hazardous and can cause the most severe health risks, such as radon gas and other radioactive agents, as well as outright toxic chemicals and airborne acids. Sleeping in a room like this will kill you. Standing in such a room can cause illness and can render you unconscious.
Don't try to clean a room having such air quality without personal protective gear, as even short-term exposure can leave long-term health effects.
Fortunately, it is also nearly impossible for apartments or homes to become this bad. The most common rooms with this condition are storage facilities where people store chemical waste.
One final note in regards to the different categories of indoor air quality: We talked about the various circumstances that contributed to the scores, such as how most people's bedrooms will be between 0 and 50 and most people's living rooms will be between 51 and 100.
These values are not likely to change, but certain situations can cause them to change very quickly. Because of the toxic effects of the chemicals present, fires, carbon monoxide leakages, and spillages can immediately raise the temperature of a standard room from 0 to 50 to over 150. Smoke detectors are the best way to detect these things early.
Many smoke detectors are programmed to notify you if your indoor air quality index rises above a certain level. When this happens, pay attention because it is a significant problem.
How is Indoor Air Quality Calculated
To understand what Indoor Air Quality means, you need to understand the difference between fresh air and pollutants. Fresh air is not 100% oxygen, as you may know. Fresh air contains 8% oxygen, and the rest is more or less nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen, and small particulate matter.
The human respiratory tract can filter out almost everything that isn't oxygen. But we run into trouble when we try to breathe in other hydrocarbons, when the fine particle pollution of an area gets a little less fine, or a little more pollutant.
There are three essential components of the indoor air quality index: The first is the chemical composition of the air. Indoor air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and radon gas indicate poor indoor air quality.
The second is humidity and temperature. Humidity and temperature are unrelated to indoor air pollution, although humidity and temperature may be massive contributors. However, these factors will not lower air quality on their own, but they can make indoor air pollutants spread easier, creating a poor environment to breathe in.
The last component is volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These are a little more complex, as they usually require the temperature and humidity to be at certain levels before they can create indoor air pollution.
Let's go over the many factors that affect indoor air quality.
What are Some of The Most Common Pollutants
In your home, more chemicals put you at risk of health problems than you realize. But of course, you don't think of them; they probably don't affect your well-being in the amount you breathe. But they can still linger in your living space if not addressed.
We use the word "chemicals" here, but oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen are individual atoms. Even if you breathe some in, the damage caused is insignificant. But exposure to them will add up to any health effects.
Chemicals are complex compounds of different molecules. The most common products constituting chemicals are cleaning products, personal hygiene products, and cooking products. These chemicals are impossible for your lungs to process and carry higher risks of causing eye irritation and asthma attacks, especially at higher temperatures.
The most common chemical that will cause you issues is sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is a byproduct of burning both gas and coal for cooking. It gets into the air from gas and coal burning in wood stoves or grills. Prolonged exposure to this yields serious health risks, but you can expect immediate eye irritation and asthma attacks if you're very close to them.
The real danger of these chemicals is how they release carbon monoxide. Unlike sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless. It is one of the crucial factors in lung cancer.
If you are dealing with headaches or asthma attacks, but the air in your home feels normal, then there is a chance that you are showing early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Get out into clear air and see if the symptoms clear up. If they do, call maintenance to inspect for gas leaks. A gas leak will cause a direct emission of carbon monoxide into your home.
VOCs or "volatile organic compounds" are pollutants that come about as the result of ongoing chemical reactions. Despite the word "organic" in their name, these chemicals do not have to be part of living organic compounds. The important thing is that they are chemically active.
Any "chemically active" substance is subject to change states, given exposure to excess moisture, higher temperatures, and poor ventilation. But let's slow down and go into more detail. What volatile organic compounds do you need to worry about in your home?
VOCs From Common Household Items
ALT TEXT:common essentials for air quality
What is a VOC?
A VOC is a compound actively evolving or changing state under the right circumstances. Not only that, but it is also harmful to breathe should it change to a gas.
What are common VOCs?
The most common volatile organic compounds are those made to aid human activities, such as cleaning and cooking. Soaps, drain cleaners, and gasoline can emit fumes that increase ground-level ozone levels, produce adverse health effects in both the long and short term, and cause poor indoor air quality in a different room like a garage.
Where do they come from in the home?
Most indoor air pollution is due to poorly secured volatile organic compounds under the sink or in the garage. For instance, if you leave a bottle of drain cleaner open, the air pollutants will ablate the bottle and start to float through the air in your home.
Especially if your home has poor ventilation, the indoor air quality will drop dramatically in less than a day if you don't deal with these indoor air pollutants.
Items That Influence Indoor Air Quality
While the two broad categories are moisture content and temperature, among the most dangerous factors that affect indoor air quality, there are still things that influence air pollution in your home.
Based on the individual, nearly anything can be an allergen. Allergic reactions are immune system reactions. Some people's bodies treat different indoor pollutants as dangerous health risks than other people. The most common allergens are pollen from outdoor air pollution.
These are less common in the winter, but during the spring and summer, you will feel some nasal congestion if the outdoor air is not filtered.
It is worth noting that air pollution from cars, such as nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, is also an allergen, although its allergic reactions usually take a backseat to the other ways it can affect your health. When exposed to a significant amount of carbon emissions from cars, ensure your home's air conditioning has an excellent filter to ensure that no extra air pollution gets in.
People often misunderstand dust. There are two layers to what makes dust harmful to you: the airborne particles, which are too large for you to breathe and clog up the air, and the dust mites, which can cause lung disease if you don't filter them out.
Airborne particles and dust mites explain why regular dusting and vacuuming are essential. The damage caused by dust and dust mites is the crucial factor that affects indoor air quality. Dust mites are living things too, which means they can land on and decay into a mold, which can cause respiratory illness if left unattended.
The most common cause of dust buildup is inadequate ventilation. Keeping screened windows open makes it more difficult for dust to settle, making it more difficult for dust mites to reproduce and cause health problems for you.
Pet dander is similar to dust. And like dust, it feeds into the living things you do not want in your indoor environment. Pet dander also smells, which is always a strong indicator of poor air quality.
How much dander your pet produces is related to their health, particularly their skin. Be sure to consider your pet's health as a factor in the air quality of your home.
Detergents are up on a scale of volatile organic compounds in terms of their potential danger. They are acidic, meaning that they are highly active as chemicals. Detergents gain access to the air, and their gas forms are frequently lighter than air.
Of course, you still need detergents to clean things in your home. Just make sure you seal your detergent to prevent too much indoor exposure.
Floor Care Products
Depending on the product's resilience, you deal with lethal volatile organic compounds or relatively harmless ones. Ensure you don't take any chances when it comes to indoor environments. Keep them sealed to prevent poor indoor air quality.
Disinfectants, from the kitchen to the medicine cabinet, are also acidic. That means they are light enough to float on indoor air, turning them into mild air pollution.
It takes an effective disinfectant to be exposed to air for a long time to create a danger. Applying disinfectant requires inadequate ventilation to affect indoor air quality. In short, you are safekeeping these in a cupboard without worrying too much. Just be aware that disinfection contributes to poor indoor air quality, and small things can add up.
Ironically, humans are negatively affected by air fresheners. The side effects of air fresheners are trivial, but they emit substances that are essentially particulate matter that smells nice. Fortunately, air fresheners were designed to dissipate fast. The key to keeping indoor air quality high with these is not using too many at once.
Some individuals make use of the fumes produced by glue to get high. You're probably not surprised to learn that an unlocked glue container can pollute your indoor air quality.
It doesn't take industrial-strength glue to cause indoor air pollution. Anything more concentrated than kid's glue will affect indoor air quality.
Paints & Paint Strippers
Paints are another chemical product you can smell from a mile away, but the trick here is knowing how to store the paint. Many paints will come with instructions on how to keep them safe. The producers of the paint are aware of the fact that paints cause indoor air pollution.
If there is no instruction on the paint container, look for instructions on storing the paint beforehand. This is especially true with paint strippers, which are usually acidic enough to float, while simultaneously being highly toxic.
In short, do not take risks with paint. It won't damage your skin, but it can cause eye irritation just by being in the same room, and unless it dries, it will cause air quality to drop massively.
Air freshening sprays, body sprays, and even canned air can reduce indoor air quality. The reason is that they will often have several chemicals that your lungs can't process. There have even been lawsuits against some air freshener spray companies for the possibility of their products causing lung cancer. It takes a lot of exposure for the risks to become serious, but that doesn't change the fact that they are strong air pollutants.
Most candles will help more than they hurt the air pollution in your home. But be sure that your home has proper ventilation whenever you light one: this applies to all candles, including scentless candles.
Scentless candles help cleanse air pollution in indoor air because of the carbon monoxide fire produces. Carbon monoxide is so small that it is barely a factor in air pollution, but when combined with other factors, it affects indoor air quality and can be a problem. But as we said, it can also solve a problem.
Just be sure to avoid scented candles where you can. They are fine if you have nothing else affecting indoor air quality, but the chemicals they output are not fit for breathing.
You may have heard the phrase, "Where there's smoke, there's fire." That's not exactly true, but I can assure you that where there's smoke, there's almost certainly danger.
Smoke never appears on its own. There is always something, whether from inside an oven or outdoor air pollution, creating it. Here are a few common possibilities.
If there is a wildfire nearby, the smoke will be detectable in the smell of the outdoor air before it is visible anywhere. You might be able to smell it in an indoor environment. That's because wildfires are a big problem that requires an immediate response.
You might have to evacuate the area if a wildfire is heading in your direction. A drop in indoor air quality indicates that the wind is blowing air pollutants your way and that the fire will not be far behind.
Carbon monoxide is not just a product of the gas itself. If anything catches on fire, there is a good chance that it will emit carbon monoxide through smoke and make poor indoor air quality. This can happen even if there is burnt food matter in your oven.
Cigarette smoke is minor on an individual level, but most smokers do not smoke one cigarette. They usually smoke much more, and the air quality of your home will be negatively affected after just one.
The health effects of cigarettes are generally well-known, but it is hard to overstate their adverse effects, which include everything up to and including lung cancer.
Children that face exposure to cigarette smoke, even when they're in the womb, can develop asthma and other health problems. Just be sure there is adequate ventilation and no children nearby if you are going to smoke.
These are most similar to personal hygiene products, though they have improved in recent years in terms of minimizing their adverse effects on indoor air quality.
They will present more adverse effects on your health than your indoor air quality since you may wear perfume indoors or outdoors. Just remember not to treat fragrances as an air freshener. Even air fresheners contaminate the air, and you should not use perfume in equal quantities or in the same places.
How to Mitigate Air Pollution
Looking at all the indoor sources of air pollution, one might start to wonder if it's possible to have clean air. However, keep in mind that you are not attempting to eliminate all potential sources of air pollution in your home. All you need to do is manage the worst ones. Furthermore, you can address almost all of these factors with these solutions.
To begin with, anything that produces fumes in contact with the air should be sealed, preferably with a screw-on lid, and stored in a cupboard or plastic drawer.
It is not complicated to store paint, glue, or other pollutants that can affect your health. You just need to ensure that you keep their fumes sealed up and that if they are somehow leaking fumes, then those fumes do not risk exposure to your home and cannot become air pollution.
Since its inception, air conditioning has focused on filtering outside air. This is because air conditioning generates waste that, while not toxic, can make the air in your home uncomfortable and may contribute to asthma attacks.
This is why air conditioning is so heavily regulated. Every air conditioner grades air filters according to how much air pollution it filters out.
The most crucial component is that your air conditioning system can filter out contaminants such as carbon dioxide, radon gas, and allergens. Some newer air conditioning units will also come with signaling systems that can detect when their filters do not capture all the air pollution they need to capture, as well as signaling when they detect serious health risks.
Energy efficiency is another layer of keeping your air conditioning producing clean air. You do not want an air conditioning unit that needs to be kept on all the time.
Vacuuming, Dusting, Cleaning
Those cleaning chemicals are not just kept under the sink to stay out of the way. They also help kill mold, get rid of dust mites, and in general, reduce air pollution, if only indirectly.
Vacuuming and dusting are the real way to increase the air quality in your home if you are concerned about air pollution ruining your clean air. It might be an absolute chore, but it is critical to preventing asthma attacks and reducing factors that affect health negatively.
Enroll in the Air Filter Subscription Program by Airzey
The only chore worse than vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning is remembering to order your HVAC’s filter. Many people are shocked to find that their filter needs replacing at all. But a good filter impacts a lot of factors for your HVAC unit.
Your HVAC unit has greater energy efficiency when it is filtered properly, removes more outdoor air pollution, and cuts down on the amount of dust in the system. These factors can affect your health, as well as the amount of air pollution in your home.
The air filter subscription program by Airzey is a simple way to get a new air filter delivered to you without you having to worry about remembering yet another thing on your list.
How Does it Work?
You can select the subscription model right from the product page of each filter size. It’s up to you the frequency you choose but we recommend every three months. That's the most amount of work that you will have to do throughout this entire process. Then, Airzey will notify you when it is time to replace the filters in your air conditioner.
At that point, you will receive a package containing your new air filters, just in time to replace them. You can go ahead and put new air filters in your HVAC system to ensure that you continue to breathe clean air.