Every home has a set amount of square footage and a varying number of inhabitants on any given day. You can only change the size of your house by adding or removing rooms. However, you may have family staying with you for extended periods or household members who leave on extended business trips.
These factors may seem separate, but they have a quality that unites them. What could that be?
Both the cubic feet of your home and the number of inhabitants can severely impact the number of indoor air pollutants in your home. Highly-populated households, particularly those in Southeast Asia, can have multiple factors that may lead to poor indoor environments.
If you are worried about the indoor pollutant levels in your home, read on. Your household size may affect your air quality, but luckily, there are measures you can take to counteract any potential health risks.
What Does Indoor Air Quality Mean?
In general, air quality refers to the levels of pollutants in the air and how healthy it is for humans to breathe in. If an environment has a high level of air quality, it is healthy and poses few health issues.
Indoor air quality is, specifically, air quality in indoor environments. While outdoor air quality typically considers factors such as your proximity to a major city and the amount of vegetation, indoor air quality utilizes several factors, such as your pets, your home's construction, and your day-to-day habits.
However, both indoor and outdoor air pollution levels have a few factors in common, such as population and the type of biological organisms present.
Household air pollution can cause significant indoor air quality problems and issues for human health. Let's further examine what that entails.
Indoor Air Pollution's Immediate Effects on Your Health
You can break the negative health effects of indoor air pollution into two categories; immediate and long-term effects.
Immediate effects are harmful health effects that could irritate you or cause you to feel unwell but are not likely to cause any significant impact on your long-term health.
Many of these immediate effects are transient and may disappear on their own, or you can take certain medications, such as Advil, to alleviate some discomfort. Additionally, all you may need to do to stop feeling these negative effects is remove your environmental stressors.
Immediate health effects include lethargy and tiredness, nausea, and headaches. Additionally, if you are sensitive or have a related health issue, you may experience discomfort in your eyes, nose, and throat.
Long-Term Effects on Your Health
On the other hand, prolonged exposure to indoor air pollutants may cause long-term health issues that may be lethal or impairing for any inhabitant, including healthy people.
For example, tobacco smoke is a known household air pollutant. However, it has more risks than just causing a headache; this smoke has a notably high risk factor of developing lung cancer.
However, human cancer is an effect of many indoor air pollutants, such as radon, formaldehyde, and asbestos.
Indoor air pollutants are also lethal to people with asthma and, in severe cases, may otherwise cause asthma in previously-healthy residents of your home.
What are the Main Sources of Indoor Air Quality Problems?
There is not any single factor that dictates your air quality. Typically, many sources compose of your ambient air quality.
The proportions of these sources in your home's air may vary depending on your lifestyle. For example, a family with a dog may have more animal dander in their household air pollution than a family with no pets.
Regardless of proportions, these are the main sources you should look into when determining which factors in your home may negatively impact your air quality.
The effects of these pollutants can range from relatively minor, such as allergic reactions, to severe, such as premature deaths in infants.
Let's take a look at some of the most common air pollutants now.
Radon is one of the most infamous and toxic of all household air pollutants, with potentially devastating effects on the health of any inhabitants.
Radon is a human carcinogen that forms when uranium, found naturally in rocks and soil, decays. In its gas form, radon can enter your home via gaps and spaces, where it can promptly get stuck.
As the second most common source of lung cancer, radon is a significant factor in indoor air pollution. Thankfully, there is a reliable way to significantly reduce or outright minimize radon's effects on your home.
Does your home have a radon barrier? It may be vital to keep your family safe and your air clean.
During your home's construction or any future renovations, consider installing a radon barrier to prevent any new radon from entering your home. Radon barriers come in plenty of forms, including spray foam insulation, so you can decide which radon barrier works best for you.
Another carcinogen, asbestos, is a popular material in home construction. In earlier years, you could commonly find asbestos in anything from roofing shingles to floor tiles and your home's insulation. However, in recent years, asbestos has fallen out of use due to its well-known status as a health burden.
Asbestos is a form of natural mineral that has crystallized into a fiber-like substance. As a byproduct of natural minerals, asbestos is strong and fireproof, which lends to its usage in home construction.
However, recent evidence has shown that asbestos can cause cancer in humans. With its fibrous nature, loose strands of asbestos can enter your air and reduce your air quality.
Check to see if your home has asbestos. If it does, you may want to replace it during your next home renovation.
Like asbestos, formaldehyde is a toxic, gaseous compound. Their similarities do not end there; many experts believe that formaldehyde is also a carcinogen, and inhaling it may lead to lung cancer or cardiovascular disease.
Thankfully, you can identify formaldehyde far easier than asbestos or radon. Many people, especially high-school science students, know formaldehyde for its strong and repulsive stench.
Ultimately, you will experience trace amounts of formaldehyde from any appliance that burns fuel. These minute amounts of formaldehyde are nigh unavoidable, but in small doses, formaldehyde may not cause any significant health issues.
However, prolonged exposure to formaldehyde may have severe effects on your health, including cancer. Formaldehyde is one of the best reasons to ensure that your home is well-ventilated.
You likely have a carbon monoxide detector in your home already, and as such, you may not have to worry about this gas as much as other people.
Carbon monoxide is a toxic compound that can result in headaches, muscular discomfort, and, in severe cases, death. As it has no taste, scent, or smell, it is challenging to detect carbon monoxide without a dedicated device.
Any combustion process will create carbon monoxide, from your firepit to a cigarette, a furnace, your grill, or your car.
In outdoor environments, you will not have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning. However, when indoors, carbon monoxide can be a severe danger to any inhabitant of your home.
For example, many professionals recommend that you do not leave your car running in your garage, as the resulting carbon monoxide can poison anybody staying in the room or otherwise enter your home.
Microorganisms And Biological Byproducts
If you live in a humid environment, you may be fully aware of the dangers that microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and fungal spores may pose to your household. These factors are known as biological pollutants.
Mold, mildew, and bacteria like to take hold in damp or moist environments and can release harmful spores that can cause anything from allergic reactions in people with asthma to bacterial or fungal infections.
Ultimately, microorganisms are a significant amount of the indoor air quality problems that homeowners may face. If you notice any household air pollution in your home, try checking for mold or mildew in or near your vents as soon as possible.
Health departments have long noted the negative effects on health that tobacco products may bring, but even still, some people smoke inside their homes.
Smoking releases a number of harmful compounds into the air, including ash and nicotine, in such qualities that even secondhand smoke can cause cancer in humans, cancer in animals or exaggerate the symptoms of people with asthma.
Additionally, environmental tobacco smoke can discolor your home and any items inside it.
If you want to improve the air quality in your home, you can take a significant first step by asking any smokers to take their cigarettes outside.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs, are the gaseous byproducts of various solid and liquid chemicals including paint strippers, wax, gasoline, and sealants.
Many cleaning products and personal care items release volatile organic compounds, though often in trace amounts that are not inherently unhealthy. Many VOCs are only real danger in high concentrations.
Typically, volatile organic compounds will not reach high concentrations in the average home. However, there is one factor that can increase the concentration of VOCs, as well as any other source of household air pollution.
If you've been experiencing indoor air quality problems, the odds are high that your home has poor ventilation.
With sufficient levels of ventilation, new air will quickly replace the old, stale air in your home and take most pollutants with it.
However, with inadequate ventilation, various pollutants will remain stagnant in your home and mingle with other toxic sources. If left unchecked, poor ventilation can cause exposure to household air to turn dangerous.
How Can You Reduce Household Air Pollution Exposure?
Unfortunately, there are plenty of factors that can negatively influence your household air quality. With so many potential issues, it can seem like improving your air quality is not possible.
Thankfully, there are plenty of things that you can do to keep the air in your home clean, healthy, and breathable.
If you spend some time and effort regularly, you don't need to worry about exposure to household air causing any malady, serious or otherwise.
Ventilate Your Home
Remember that poor ventilation is one of the easiest ways for your air quality to quickly turn stale and toxic. As such, you may consider more thoroughly venting your home.
Ventilating your home can be far more simple than you imagined. When seasonally appropriate, you can open your windows and, if necessary, set up a standing fan to blow air outwards.
Alternatively, ceiling fans are an excellent way to keep air in constant movement. Fans and vents cooperate to push air towards filters or out windows to help keep your home a clean, healthy environment with breathable air.
Sometimes, simple cleaning can be all you need. If you have pets, whether they are dogs, cats, or birds, pet dander can settle as dust and irritate anybody in your family with allergies.
By regularly cleaning, you can remove pollutants from small- yet significant- surfaces such as windowsills, doors, and carpets.
If you have children with asthma, you will notice an immediate difference as soon as the air settles after a cleaning.
The process of cleaning may kick up some extraneous dust, but after a few minutes, any children with allergies or respiratory diseases will feel far more comfortable.
Invest In Energy-Efficient Appliances
No matter what context it is used in, the phrase energy-efficient means that a designated item uses less energy- whether it's electricity or fuel- than its traditional counterparts.
As a byproduct of using less power, an energy-efficient appliance will also emit fewer chemicals- including carbon monoxide- into the air.
When your appliances release fewer pollutants, you don't need to worry as much about negative impacts on your air quality.
Avoid Tobacco Products
We have already covered that tobacco products can cause damage to both your air quality and home decor.
Unfortunately, no method or device can combat the adverse effects of smoking tobacco indoors.
Ultimately, if you want to avoid the unfavorable aspects of tobacco products in your home, you must entirely negate the indoor usage of tobacco.
When you, your family, or guests smoke tobacco, consider asking them to smoke outside. When somebody smokes outside, you minimize or entirely negate the indoor exposure to a cigarette's byproducts as the smoke blows away.
Use Natural Cleaners
Unfortunately, cleaning may not be as effective as you would hope. Sure, a thorough cleaning can remove or reduce many significant indoor sources of air pollution, but the cleaning products themselves can be toxic.
By using natural cleaning products, you can reduce chemical exposure that could otherwise cause illness or release dangerous VOCs into the air.
Otherwise, you should wear a mask and gloves whenever working with cleaning products- especially ones utilizing bleach as a cleaning agent.
Keep Yourself And Your Pets Hygienic
Bathing is always a good idea for cleanliness and social acceptability, but did you know that bathing your pets has even more health benefits?
Bathing your pets reduces the amount of pet dander released into the air over time, especially if you use specifically-formulated conditioners and shampoos dedicated to cleaning pet dander.
Use Cleaner HVAC Systems
Sometimes, using energy-efficient devices is not enough. Cleaner fuels are nice, but if your HVAC system is old, it may cause as many problems as it solves.
Many modern HVAC systems will help ventilate and circulate air in your home for a minimal energy cost- meaning minimal emissions and higher-quality air.
Ultimately, household size has a great level of effect on your home's air quality. If you have a smaller home, it's easier for air to stagnate and contaminants to pile up.
On the other hand, having more people or pets can also cause a severe buildup of pollutants, allergens, and contaminants. The more people live in a space, the more likely they are to produce a higher amount of waste.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to minimize contaminants and keep your air quality clean. If you spend some time dedicated to cleaning, your home will be safe from many of the most common home pollutants.
If you want to keep your home's air as clean as possible, consider an Airzey air filter.